March 6, 2023

michele's pov

michele's pov
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three siblings

michele’s point of view

this episode is about michele's individual point of view as one of the three siblings. michele begins by sharing a quote, which has taught her how to process grief. seven years after the loss of her parents, michele has gained a more compassionate view of her younger self and the grief she experienced. she reflects on how she was not taught how to grieve properly and instead tried to appear unaffected. her attempt to mask her pain ultimately led her to a place of self-destruction, from which she had to rebuild. the conversation is a reminder of the importance of expressing grief in order to honor the ones we have lost. in the end, michele reflects on the importance of learning to love deeply and cherish every moment, despite the pain of death. she credits her siblings, tina and sunny, for understanding her and not judging her for her past. this has allowed her to appreciate the privilege of having conflict with someone living, as it is a gift in life.

trigger warning: this show discusses sensitive mental health topics.

episode timestamps

0:00:10 - loss and healing

0:01:19 - the passing of grandpa and dad

0:03:39 - escaping to paris

0:07:01 - grief, guilt, and forgiveness

0:08:40 - healing through vulnerable conversations with loved ones

0:10:12 - healing and self-love

produced by dbpodcasts:

for all things three siblings podcast & hosts:


Sunny: Welcome to Three Siblings, a podcast about life after loss and grief. We're the three siblings. Your hosts, Sonny, Tina and Michelle. On the show, we tell our stories to shine a light on tough family situations to help our listeners with issues they may be facing. Let's get into it. Welcome to the show, Michelle. I'm Sunny. Really excited to be here with my sisters. On today's episode, we're discussing the events that brought us here. First, we'll give some background on our parents and their passing. Then we'll share why we decided to make this show. And finally, we'll share our future hopes.

Michele: Hey, it's Michelle here. So it's been about six years since we've lost our parents. That was in 2016 and 2017. The three of us have battled with depression, anxiety and PTSD. Achieving stable mental health hasn't really been easy, but we have each other. We wanted to be vulnerable about our experiences in the hopes that people would feel less alone as they navigate their own grief.

Sunny: Okay, let's dive into it. First, we talk about our parents and who they are.

Michele: Both of our parents are immigrants from China. They had quite different upbringings. Our mother grew up in the countryside. Her family was very poor. She worked on a farm. And she moved here after college with my dad when he decided to do grad school in the US. And so they moved here together. They met in college at a Christmas party. So Christmas was always their little anniversary.

Sunny: Yeah, I guess. Cute little stories that at the Christmas party they decided to make a what's it called? Where you put a bunch of little pieces together?

Michele: Puzzle.

Sunny: Yeah. They decided to build a puzzle together at Christmas party.

Michele: Oh, I didn't even know that. That's really cute. But yeah. So then they moved to the US. And my dad ended up working at UT Austin in the chemistry department because he had a doctorate in chemistry by then. And that's where I was born. I was born in Austin, Texas. They moved to Houston when I was eleven months old. And their story is really a story of immigrant success, which is amazing because of where my mom came from. Once they moved to Houston, I think my mom kind of got started by being a secretary and working in computer retail stores and computer wholesale. Eventually she decided to start her own business out of her garage, and it did quite well. So, fortunately, Tina, Sonny and I have had pretty comfortable lives growing up. We're very lucky, and we grew up with our grandparents, grandparents from our dad's side, which is pretty common for Chinese families. But to me, our parents have always been incredibly inspiring and sometimes honestly hard to live up to, just because what they went through in life and how much they were able to achieve is a lot. It feels like something that I will probably never be able to fully comprehend. Just like the levels of difficulty they went through to get where they are, the strength that they had to have to leave behind everything that they knew, move to a new country, new culture and yeah, I still feel like that. I'm really inspired by them. And I think even though they're gone now, a lot of that I just feel like in my life, I want to live up to them and make them proud and to also keep going and remember that life can change so quickly. But, yeah, they were amazing people.

Sunny: Yeah. I think being so young is hard to understand how driven and powerful and successful they were. But it was definitely subconsciously instilled into me to work hard to be the best you can. Because looking back, our parents were so dedicated to us and the businesses that they created and even shown with the employees how much they loved the people they worked with and how well they treated them. And it's just a testament to what great people and what great parents they were.

Michele: I mean, honestly, I feel like there could be an entire book about their lives separately, and I think about that all the time. Maybe we can go over that in a future episode.

Sunny: Yeah, I definitely agree. I guess leading into the divorce, even if there were issues going on, the love that mom and dad had for us never wavered. Even if their love was wavering, it never showed up in the way they treated us and the way they took care of us.

Michele: Yeah, that's true. I think I remember being a teenager. Well, I do remember them fighting a lot growing up, and I think in my early 20s is when I noticed it's. Just not noticed. But things just got really bad. And then the divorce happened, which was, I think, pretty hard on everyone.

Sunny: Yeah. When the divorce happened, I was 14. They did a good job of hiding it for me. Obviously, there were some fights that I heard or was a part of, but they definitely did a good job of trying not to have me involved, especially being in middle school. And the first time I learned about I guess the marriage finally ending was freshman year of high school. My dad dropped me off at a friend's, and he told me that he was moving out, and that was the last time I told him I love you for six or seven years. And I'll dive into it later on, but the next time I told him I love you was a month before he passed, and that was the last thing I would say to him.

Michele: Yeah.

Sunny: For me, the divorce was difficult. I didn't really understand what it was, but I didn't understand that it was just that the marriage wasn't working out. And I really blame my dad for some guilt and regret that I'll always have. Our dad had a mistress who would later become our stepmom. And because of that, I was really resentful to my dad in high school. And that's something I'll feel terrible for. It was hard for me to understand that my dad still loved me, he still cared for me, he still wished the best for me. And even when I was sort of a terrible child to him, he still loved me unconditionally. And looking back at it, it's so easy to see how much he loved me.

Michele: I think you need to forgive yourself and let go of that guilt and shame at some point because you are so young and you still are so young. I think it may take you a while before I'm significantly older than you. And I think I've finally gotten to the point where I look to what I've done in the past as like, through the eyes of an older person and realize I was just a teenager. And many teenagers out there have fights with their parents, and fortunately for them, they get to make up and develop good relationships with their parents in the future, and so they kind of forget about that. But for you and me and Tina, I feel like I was in a pretty good place with our parents. But you were so young. You never got a chance to reach that point of maturity. And I just hope that you say that you're going to carry the guilt forever. I hope that you can look back and realize that you didn't know any better and you were feeling things that you didn't understand and you didn't know how to express that you were in pain too, and you were disappointed and you were hurt and scared. Like, I hope you'll realize that.

Tina: And some of the anger that you had was valid as well. And you were being protective of mom. So I wouldn't just completely blame yourself for it because I was pretty upset with that as well.

Michele: We all were. I did not like our step mom. I was so rude to her, like, the first couple of times I met her, you know, and like, I look back and I'm just like, I didn't know any better, to be honest. Like, we weren't, you know, in the Chinese community back then. Like, mental health wasn't even a thing. Learning how to navigate difficult emotions, we were always just taught to just keep working. Emotions weren't even a thing. They exploded out of us and we dealt with them, but like, we weren't really given like, healthy outlets. And I think that now that we're older and we have kind of like, gone out into the world and become adults and learned to navigate our emotions better, we've all improved. But you can't blame someone so young. I mean, I would just say, imagine if you met like a twelve year old who is having a screaming fit or like a seven year old, right? Like, we don't blame them. For acting that way. We understand that they may be in pain or they need something, and we try to help them. And in some ways, like, as we age, like, we're not screaming and making a scene, but we're being mean or saying things that are hurtful. And there's just growth that comes with recognizing that, but also forgiving yourself. The same way that you would forgive a stranger or a friend who came up to you and was like, look, I acted in a way that I didn't like. You know what I'm saying?

Sunny: Yeah, that's a great way to put it. And the divorce was really tough on mom. Like, we talked about divorce, mental health wasn't sort of really acknowledged in the Chinese community, and I think that weighed down on her a lot, just the divorce and being well established in the Chinese community. Our dad was the boardman of Chinese school foundations. They were well established in the Chinese community. And so the divorce was definitely talked about throughout the Chinese community. And I think that weighed really hard on mom.

Michele: Absolutely. I think both of our parents had a lot of pride, but also, I'm sure this is really common in immigrant communities, you know, that there's a lot of gossip and everyone knows each other, and it's like small town vibes where, like, everyone talked about it. And I also feel like mom didn't have the right support. I still believe that to this day. Not saying that us three would have been the ones to give it to her because we were kids, but I often think about how like, you know, even like though she did go to therapy and stuff. Like how well versed were those therapists in like the struggles of a Chinese immigrant woman dealing with not only a divorce but her entire community and stuff like that. I think people who study psychology now and are entering the field, there's a lot more awareness of cultural differences, but I think during that time, they're just, you know, they also just gave her pills and stuff. And like, I feel in many ways that the American health care system and kind of the Chinese community mentality failed her as a person. And it's not to blame them either. It's just it is what it is.

Sunny: That just reminded me of something, I guess a sign of my immaturity, I think. In the middle of divorce, they tried to send us to family therapy. And I remember being in the waiting room, and I was like, there's no way I'm going in there. Like, screw that. I'm not going into that room. I'm not going to talk a therapist. I haven't thought of that in a while. But that's just a reminder of my maturity at the time and inability to comprehend mental health and things like that when I was 14 or 15.

Michele: I mean, that's okay because no one really taught us about the importance of mental health care. So of course, probably to you at that age, you're just like, what is this? This is not going to help.

Sunny: Yes. So the divorce happened when I was around 14 or 15. And like we said, it weighed down heavy on our mom. And the first attempt happened when I was on a trip. And I remember coming back from the trip, tina had picked me up and she parked the car in front of the house and she said, mom's not going to be here when we're home. She had attempted suicide, and right now she's at the hospital. I was shocked. I would have never expected that from her mom, who, like we've said, is such a powerful woman, so outgoing, so loving. And I was just confused. Where were you all when you found out?

Tina: I honestly can't remember. It's, like, really hazy for that first time. I can't remember. I remember telling you about it, but I can't remember who called me or who told me. Michelle, do you remember?

Michele: I do remember because we were at home and that time mom was dating her boyfriend and she had left a letter on her bed, like a suicide letter. And I think that her boyfriend had found her. I'm not sure. I don't remember who found her. But she hadn't even jumped at that point. She was, like, waiting there. And I think that that attempt was more of like a call for help than it was like a real suicide attempt. Do you know what I mean? But I do remember reading that letter. And it's going to be kind of ****** up for me to say this, but I did think it was kind of funny because obviously she was like, I love you to people. But she was like I can't remember what she said. But basically she had said some things to the people in the Chinese community who were mean to her. And she was like, I don't know what she wrote, but I think that was like a twisted thing that it makes me laugh. But mom was always so fierce and proud that I don't know, sometimes when I think about it, I still laugh a little bit, despite how dark it is.

Tina: Oh, I don't remember that at all.

Michele: Yeah, I mean, my memories around all those times are definitely really hazy, obviously, because it's traumatizing. But I for some reason just remember. I remember reading the letter and then my memory becomes like a hole. Like, I can't remember who found her, et cetera. I do remember her going to a mental hospital after that because the cops were called and all that. And once there's a suicide attempt, you're required to go spend time in a mental hospital. I remember visiting her there and feeling just like, heartbroken that she was in there because that place looked terrible. I don't know how anyone would be getting help there other than the fact that they're so miserable there that they want to leave. You know what I mean? I was like, this is not a place to heal people. This is a place to scare people into living again, because it was just not I don't know, it was a really dark space.

Sunny: Yeah. I remember thinking pretty similar things when I saw her there. It was heartbreaking seeing her so mentally weak. I'm pretty sure she was handcuffed. So, like you were saying yeah, it's not a place to actually heal.

Tina: She wasn't handcuffed. She was allowed to walk around and she wasn't allowed out the doors. But we were able to see her.

Sunny: Yeah, I know. I remember. We were allowed to see her. So that was her first attempt. She wrote a letter, and before she was able to successfully jump, someone found her. And so she spent time in the hospital, and I think for a little bit, she got a lot better. Like we said, she had a boyfriend. I was still at home at the time. I was still in high school, and I think when I went to college, that was really difficult for her. I was the last child. Now she had an empty nest.

Michele: Yeah. And mom really, really liked she loved being a mom.

Sunny: Yes.

Michele: I think she always wanted to be a mom and loved being a mom. And then when we grew up and moved out, I think she just wanted to be a mom forever.

Sunny: Yeah. So after my first year of college, it was June 2016, when my mom or our mom attempted for the second time this time, she went to the same parking garage and was able to jump. And the only way that someone found her was because they saw a trail of blood and she was immediately life flighted to the hospital. She had fractured every limb. I remember I got the call, I was in Austin. I was hanging out at a pool, and I got the call and I just dropped everything I was doing and had to drive, stay back to Houston.

Michele: I was in Paris visiting with friends, and my friend, out of the kindness of his heart, just booked me a one way ticket immediately to Houston. And I remember I was sitting in a restaurant near the Eiffel Tower when I got the call. And I don't know if I cried, but my friend, one of my friends who was with me, he burst out crying when he heard what happened. And I'll never forget, I don't know the moment that I found out, but also yeah. Tina, where were you? I don't remember.

Tina: I think I was on my way.

Michele: Home from work in Houston. Right.

Tina: Yeah.

Sunny: For me, driving back from Austin, I said, that's so much time to think about it and just try to understand and comprehend what was going on, so michelle, I can't even imagine what it was like to have a six to eight hour flight to sort of just not be able to do anything until you got there.

Michele: Honestly, my friend gave me three Xanax and was like, take all of this right now. And I did. So I think I just blocked out the whole flight until I arrived for real. I probably would have been so anxious and miserable.

Sunny: Yeah. I can't even imagine. I would just be shaking and sweating on the flight. So that was probably really helpful, actually.

Michele: I know I blocked out because I don't remember that flight at all. I don't even remember landing in Houston or anything.

Sunny: Yeah. So seeing her in the hospital was hard. It was frightening. It was scary.

Michele: Yeah. She had like, shattered limbs. Her face was so messed up. It was like, I don't know, one of the most haunting things I've ever witnessed in my life. To see mom like that and just still alive.

Tina: The plastic surgeons did a really good job.

Michele: Oh, my God. They did. And it was just such a miracle that she survived, honestly.

Tina: She was able to walk again and stuff afterwards.

Michele: It was such a miracle. Yeah, that was really hard.

Sunny: Yeah. Bursting on the tears the first time I saw her in the hospital bed and just sitting there with so much regret and guilt, like, promising to myself, like, okay, I'm never going to let her down again. I'm going to say I love you more. I'm going to be there for her more. I'm never going to allow this to happen again. Just so many thoughts are going we're going through my head when that happens, just on how I failed her, I guess, to allow it to happen for the second time.

Michele: Well, I hope you know it's like when you use language to allow it to happen. It was so out of your control, Sunny. I hope you remember that.

Sunny: Yeah. I think that's a lesson that I'll be working to try to learn and carry on for the rest of my life. There's only so much that we could do. We weren't mental health professionals. We could do some things, but also, depression is a sickness. And I try to remember that depression.

Michele: I guess I try to describe it to people as a cancer of your perspective in that it's debilitating, it sucks you dry. It's this growing thing that takes over the way you see the world and the way you think. And because it's invisible to many people, it's not taken seriously as like when you have visible illness and disability, obviously you can treat it and manage it, but with depression, it's so complex, but it also makes living so hard for the person with it that it's just but you see them and they're like, physically okay. It's kind of like this cognitive dissonance where you see them and it's like but they can see perfectly and they can walk and they can talk. Like, how bad can it really be, but at a certain point, it gets so bad. And that's where mom was.

Sunny: Yeah. And so Mom's recovery was a long one. She was in a wheelchair for a while. She had nurses and helpers come in every day. But I'm most thankful for Tina for dropping what she was doing and moving in with mom and just being there for her. I keep talking about regrets and guilt that I have. I wish I had taken a semester or two off from school to have lived with mom and been there with her. So I always say that I'm so eternally thankful for Tina for dropping everything she was doing and being there for mom. I know it must have been difficult to see mom in that state, but what a loving daughter and human being for doing that.

Tina: I think it's just really important for you guys to try to remember mom how she was during her this is why I keep trying to encourage you guys to watch that Anthony Bourdain documentary, because all of his loved ones have pretty much chosen to remember him for his happiest moments. And don't always dwell on those really, really sad moments because mom would have really wanted you guys to remember her when she was smart and healthy and happy and laughing, I think just try to picture her in those moments.

Michele: I agree. And we've talked about this before, but Tina but I think, Sunny, I've had the same regrets as you, but I had my own severe mental health issues. And I think, Tina, you said to me and I know it wasn't to be mean, but it probably would have been worse if you were there. And I was like, Actually, you're so right. I probably would have made it way worse. And I do regret not spending time with her. But in some ways, I think about how my depression was so similar to Moms that we would just clash. You know what I mean? So I've learned to let go of that guilt because now, obviously, I would be fine. I can take care of myself and I take care of my mental health, and I'm at a place where I feel at peace most of the times. But during that time, I was very turbulent emotionally, and mom was a very emotionally turbulent person. And we just like, that would have been not an ideal situation. Honestly, I'm so grateful to you, Tina, and I feel like you're so strong for what you did. And I know you have some regrets of your own, even though you did do all that, too.

Tina: Yeah, of course.

Michele: The past is what it is, right? And the only thing we can change now is our perspective of the past. We can't change what we did back then. But I think to you, Tina, I look back and I'm like, Tina was right. If I had gone there and stayed there, I would have probably made it worse. So it just happened the way it happened.

Sunny: Yeah. And during that time in school, I was still living in Austin. I wasn't seeing therapy yet. But I'd say those drives back and forth to Houston, I was making them once a week or every two weeks. I'd say those two and a half, three hour drives are really therapeutic for me to just sort of distract myself from the world, thinking about how much there was to be grateful for, be happy that I was going to see mom and Tina. And I cried a lot during those car rides. My mind was confused. Still didn't really understand what anxiety or depression was. But those drives were very therapeutic for me. I remember a super happy picture I have of mom is leaving physical therapy. And I'm pretty sure it was the first time she was able to walk. She had a walking boot on, and she stood up from her wheelchair with her walking boot on and started walking. And there's just a picture of her smiling really hard, looking really proud. And never forget that picture I have it, and I love looking at that picture. I remember that happened in June 2016, and Mom's recovery was going on. And in November of 2016, I previously talked about how much I resented my dad. At this point, I was 19 or 20, and like we had said, now is it an older state? I started to sort of understand Dad's side and perspective of the divorce law more. I was opening up to him more and being more accepting of him. And in November, Thanksgiving weekend, he invited me to his Bay house with our stepmom, who I had never met before, and our baby's sister. And I went, and I had a great time with them. I went on the boat, I went fishing with them. And that would be the last memory I have with my dad, the last time I talked to him. And I remember as I packed my car to drive away, the last thing I said to my dad was, I love you. Which one month later, he would then pass away.

Michele: Yeah. The last time I saw dad was at Tina's restaurant. But I also remember a month, a couple of weeks before he passed away, I don't know, he called me and he sounded really frantic, and he was like, I just want to tell you that I love you. And I don't think dad has ever done a phone call like that. He sounded a little scared, and then he passed away. And I was like, did he know? I don't know. I still think about that phone call a lot. And also the day before he passed away, I remember I was living in Portland, Oregon, and I was standing in line to check out at Whole Foods, and I felt this, like, weird, cold, numb, just like, feeling take over my entire body. I was paralyzed for like a few seconds and I've never felt that before and I've never felt it again. And then the next day is when we got the call that dad had gone into cardiac arrest and was in a coma. And it was just weird because I remember these little things leading up to it and wondering, like I don't know, sometimes people say they had like, a feeling or something. I kind of wish I'd paid more attention to those feelings. I mean, not that I could have stopped him from dying or anything, but thankfully I feel like I was on really good terms with dad at that point when he passed. And I don't know, I mean, also seeing him in a coma for like a week at the hospital and living there basically for a week was like, that was I don't know, I felt like I was in survival mode at that point. Just like praying, begging. There was still, like, hope that he would come out of the coma and be fine. Even though the doctors were like, people rarely come out of a coma or fine. If anything, he'll be in a vegetative state. I read all these books and watch things about people surviving comas. Miraculously, obviously, he passed away. But I still remember kind of like, having hope and being in the hospital room with him and seeing him move his limbs, even though they also told us, like, that's normal in a coma. I was like, no, it must mean he's becoming responsive. But I don't know, I wouldn't wish the sight of both of our parents things to anyone. That is probably the hardest thing I've ever seen in my life.

Sunny: Yeah, definitely. So dad had heart problems since probably when he's 40, which is pretty rare for someone that young. He had a defibrillator installed sometime in his forty s and it saved his life numerous times. He had numerous heart attacks. The defibrillator worked and saved his life numerous times. It's probably what kept him alive during this heart attack, except it helped him a little late and so that's why he was in a coma for the week.

Tina: Do you guys remember his doctor told him when he was in his 40s that he wouldn't live more than ten.

Sunny: Years and he didn't dang, that's why.

Tina: You remember that, right?

Michele: I don't remember that, but I also remember his doctor telling him to stop working and he refused to stop working.

Tina: Yeah, that's why I said he I'm always like, you need to watch out for your heart. He's drinking an energy drink right now. I'm always like, Sonny, stop drinking all these energy drinks.

Michele: I know. I try to tell people, stress is the number one killer. It's the number one killer. It causes all these problems in your body. Finding peace, managing your stress, et cetera. It's like the most important thing we can do.

Sunny: That was definitely a. Workaholic. Oh my God, that definitely caused so much stress. And actually it was a week or two before he had the heart attack when he had been grinding on one of the biggest deals of the company's, probably history, and I'm pretty sure they got the deal. And I think that past the last week or two of him just working so hard to get that deal closed, his heart couldn't take it anymore and he had the heart attack.

Tina: I think that dad was forced to be a workaholic. I think that if he continued his working the same job as before mom started the company, I think it would have been a lot different because he would have just been like a worker. But I think when mom was forced to lead the company during their divorce that she had started and he had to kind of pivot because PC business wasn't doing well, so he had to create pretty much like a whole new business. And at that point sales had gone down and stuff, he was kind of like backed in a corner of being a workaholic. And I don't think that's something we acknowledge very often was that the business wasn't doing that well.

Michele: No, I know.

Tina: And he did have to just kind of turn it around.

Michele: Yeah, for sure. I think it wasn't easy on him. And I think one of my regrets is just like growing up, not realizing how hard it was on him. It just seemed like he made it look kind of easy. You know what I mean? That's why I think sometimes I say it's hard to live up to them because they made it look almost easy, but they didn't really show us what it was costing them, obviously until the health problems came up and the issue, the mental health issues and all that. But yeah, I guess dad's passing. I don't know, some days it feels like it was yesterday and other times it feels like it was so long ago.

Sunny: Yeah, our dad had a heart attack. He was in a coma for around a week. I had a lot of hope. I remember driving back from Austin. I found out the morning of an accounting exam. I'd studied all night, probably got 3 hours of sleep. It was 08:00 A.m., I was in the business school, going to take the exam in an hour when I got the call from my stepmom, who I didn't even have her number saved at the time. And she said that she was crying. Dad had had a heart attack, he was in a coma. I remember going to the stairwell of the business school and crying. My friend found me and I had to go up to my accounting professor. I was crying, I can't take this exam, I have to drive back to Houston. And I gave him a hug and I drove back. But I remember during that drive that two and a half three hour drive. I remember seeing a rainbow, and I'd hope our dad's going to wake up and everything would be okay from seeing that rainbow.

Michele: Yeah.

Tina: So I was in bed at the hospital I was staying at with my best friend in Melbourne, Australia. And mom had messaged me on Facebook and said that, you have to come home. Your dad's had a heart attack. So I was on the next flight back to Houston, and I think I headed straight from the airport to the hospital.

Sunny: Jeez, that's really tough. I'm sorry. Tina the night of Dad's passing, every night, one person was staying the night at the hospital, just so there was someone there with dad. And that night was my night in the hospital. I remember I was laying between two single person couches with a blanket over me. Obviously, it was tough to fall asleep in that situation. So I was on my phone and a nurse came in to gave him medicine, and his heart reacted poorly to the medicine and an alert went off. And it was basically a movie scene that's forever and great in my head when a few doctors came rushing in. I don't know what they're called. You know, when they have the two pumps, I guess they're called the fibulators as well, but they're the two pumps out and they're like the movies going, three, two, one, pump, three, two, one, pump. But it was scary. I was like I was just standing there in the background when there's six people around dad pumping his chest, and eventually they stopped and you hear his heartbeat stop and he had passed away. And I was there. I watched my dad die in person.

Tina: Did you text us? I'm guessing you called Julia first.

Sunny: Yeah, I texted, I called, and I remember when my step mom got there and heard the news in person, she screamed and pretty much collapsed. Her scream was so loud that I'm pretty sure the entire floor heard her.

Tina: Yeah, she had fainted, like, multiple times, like, lost her breath.

Michele: I remember I was driving you, tina we were driving to the hospital and we found out on the phone.

Tina: Yeah, we were about to switch shifts, I'm pretty sure.

Michele: Yeah.

Sunny: And so that stuff that's when we learned about the difficulties. Post death, the last thing you want to do is plan a funeral, but it's something you have to do.

Tina: Yeah. But this is also when we really got to know our step mom and we got close to her for the first time, because up until this point, we still had resented her for being the mistress and everything.

Michele: Yeah. I mean, I think after dad passed away, we all just put all of our little resentments aside, because then at that point, everyone was friends. Like mom was friends with our step mom. Everyone was like, whatever. At this point, he's gone. What is there left to hate about each other. We're the only ones who survived.

Sunny: Yeah. It was time to put our problems behind us and be a family. We had a baby, half sister. It's time to put those resentments behind us and come together as a family for our dad, which I know is what he would have wanted.

Michele: Yeah. And after dad passed away, I guess we went back to our lives. Kind of. I went back to Portland, kept working.

Sunny: Yeah, I went back to school. I wasn't able to finish my finals at the time, so when I went back to school in January, that's when I took my finals.

Michele: I can't believe you managed to do school through all of this. So impressive to me. I don't know. I guess we all just kind of continued on. As they say, life goes on.

Sunny: Yeah. A way to distract myself from reality.

Michele: Yeah.

Sunny: Focus on different things.

Michele: Probably better that we weren't wallowing in our grief and getting lost in our own depressions.

Sunny: Yeah. Something dad sort of just instilled in me. During Mom's second attempt, he told me, you need to focus on finishing school and getting a job and getting an internship. We'll handle this. Just focus on different things. And from an early on, that was just a way that I distracted myself from my depression and anxiety.

Michele: Yeah.

Tina: Sometimes it is good to have that voice to just telling you to keep going as well.

Sunny: Yeah, for sure.

Tina: Because dad was always, like, the most logical one in our entire family.

Michele: Yeah, that's true. The most rational.

Sunny: Yeah, definitely. That summer of 2017, mom's third attempt. I say it was a bad decision. I regret it, but honestly, it was such a good time of my life. I decided to study abroad in London. I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to do it, but looking back, knowing where my mom was, where my mom was mentally, I wish I had stayed home and been closer with her, because I studied abroad. And in August 2017 is when mom completed suicide. And all three of us were there the night before.

Michele: Yeah. I had just moved back to Houston after, and I spent the summer in Paris. That's when we met up.

Sunny: Yeah. And the night before, our mom brought us in, and she said she wasn't feeling well, she was feeling suicidal, and we were just sort of, like, go to bed. We'll get you help tomorrow. We'll take you to your doctors tomorrow.

Tina: Yeah. We were, like, saying that we needed to find her, like, a better doctor and stuff like that. And she was not happy to hear that at all. She was, like, really irritated by us saying that. But I don't think, like, mom this is what I mean when I say she always hated to appear weak. And we walked across the street or I walked across the street to talk to her best friend about it, and she hated that I did that too. She just hated having to be cared for all the time.

Sunny: Yeah, but we were doing the best that we could or what we thought was the best option for her.

Michele: Just remember, people when they're depressed tend to push everyone away. And like I said, their perspective is that everything is, like, out to get them or hurtful. You know what I mean? That was the depression talking. It wasn't her personally saying, I don't like when you take care of me. It was like the depression made her feel that way. It makes you feel weak and miserable and everything's sad in life.

Tina: Anyway, so yeah, that same best friend knocked on our door super early, and she was just like, I noticed that your mom's car isn't there. That's so weird. And then shortly after, we put in a police report, and then later that day, Mom's body was found.

Michele: I think when our neighbor, mom's best friend, told us that the car was gone, I just knew. I was like, she did it. Like, she didn't leave a letter this time. She didn't even bring her cell phone. I remember finding her phone and I was like, no, she for sure did it this time because I don't know, like, every other time I had hope or like, this time, something in me just knew. I was like, she's gone. I had no hope.

Sunny: Yeah, same here. Something just clicked in my head and I just felt it. I guess I felt that she was gone this time. I think you've talked about it before, Michelle, where it's like if someone writes a letter, there's still a glimmer of hope, but it's just when you just go straight out and do it, the hope is gone.

Michele: Yeah, usually if you've you know that they're planning to, there's still like a call for help type of vibe where it's like if they're letting someone know who obviously doesn't want them to, then they probably don't want to themselves. But when they really want to, you'll just never know when it's just going to happen. And I scoured her bedroom and everything. I don't know if you all remember, but I was going through all the paperwork, everything she had left behind, looking for a letter. Sometimes to this day, I'm like, maybe we'll find something in my mind for closure, but I know deep down inside I won't. But I just wanted a letter or something.

Tina: I almost feel like I had more closure with mom than I did with dad. Because I feel like mom and we're like, oh, we almost lost you. And we said all these things to her, like declarations of love and stuff. And with dad, I feel like even though I think we're all in good terms with him when he passed, I feel like there's so many things I wish I could have said to him. Because I don't know about you all, but did you guys get a lot off your chest when mom was, like, hospitalized the first time, I mean, for sure.

Sunny: Yeah. You know, in Mom's second attempt, it's like, okay, we're so blessed to survive this. What we'll do differently, you know, these are the conversations we're able to have with her. I guess when dad was in the hospital, it was like, okay, like, mom, he's going to wake up. We'll be able to have these conversations we wanted to have, but unfortunately, we weren't able to have that with dad. So yeah, there was there was a little more closure with mom. That's a good way to put it, Tina, for sure.

Michele: I mean, I definitely like, as a practice, I've developed, like, since they passed away is, like, I still write letters to mom and dad, and I've burned some of them by where they're buried. I burned some of them in my apartment. I typed them up sometimes if I'm feeling emotional, and I think that's really helped me. And I don't know if you all have tried it. Maybe you have. I don't remember.

Tina: I feel like I told you to do it. We blow it out for a birthday.

Michele: Yeah. But I think that's one of the things that's really helped me with kind of like leaving things unsaid, at least on my behalf, and expressing those feelings of gratitude and also maturity and being like, I'm sorry, I was such a mean, ratty little kid. And I hope you know that I've grown up now and I'm doing much better in life, and you would be proud of me. And I love you so much. And I knew you loved me all along. Stuff like that.

Sunny: And I remember Mom's funeral. There was, like, a tropical storm or something.

Michele: It was Hurricane Harvey, the biggest storm in Houston that killed. Yeah. I personally felt like it was almost spiritual to me. I was like, this is like the heavens weeping for mom, like, the earth around where she lived, literally crying for her loss.

Sunny: Yeah. It was just gloomy. It was a dark day, and I'm thankful. I had tennis friends driving from Austin when they knew this hurricane was coming just to be there for me. So I'm thankful for friends like that. I always cherish that. I always cherish the support system and having you two. Life wouldn't be possible without having you, too. I always say you're really the only two to understand what I've been through. So I'm so thankful to have you two.

Michele: Yeah, I agree. And I guess maybe we can wrap up this episode. And, Sunny, you can kind of talk about why you wanted to create the show and this space for us to talk about these things.

Sunny: Yeah. So that's our timeline. That's the story of what happened, and I'd never really talked about it publicly that often in April of 2022. In future episodes, we'll talk more about our mental health and our journey to get better and things like that. But in April of 2022, I sort of had a boiling point of having never acknowledged my mental health, having that stigma of being a guy and trying to act like I was tough and things like that was unhappy at my job, dealing through a toxic relationship. And I reached a boiling point where I just wasn't able to function anymore. And so I went to an eight week outpatient therapy program. And when I completed the program, I remember posting about on social media, I got 200 responses of people saying, wow, thank you for sharing, this is what we need to hear more of. And actually two people reached out and asked for the therapy program saying they had loved ones that they thought this could possibly impact. And I was like, I made the right decision to share about this. And in December of 2022, I'm in a mental health well being committee at Google, and I did a coffee chat. That's where I first fully shared losing our parents and talking about what I learned regarding my mental health. And once again, the positive outreach that I received from that was so uplifting. I knew that sharing our story was the right idea, it could help people. And I was just thinking about it and thinking about it, how can we share our story? And I don't know, podcast just suddenly came to my idea and I reached out to Tina and Michelle and they were really supportive of it. They were really supportive of what's become my passionate project. And I'm so thankful to have this opportunity to share a story. Hopefully we are able to leave a positive impact on people in future episodes. This episode, and not only that, leave a positive impact on us three, spend more time together, talk about things we haven't talked about before, and help us to grow closer as siblings so that's some of the why for the show. Season one will be a memoir style. You're hearing the story here. Next thing they hear point of views from each of us individually. So each episode will just be one of us talking. Then we're also going to have a best friend point of view where a few of our best friends will be talking about what they learn and experience when the things happen. So season one will be a memoir of our parents of the story, and from there we'll go to season two where we dive into mental health things along those lines. We really appreciate you listening to the story and all the positive feedback we've received, and we look forward to talking more about this. Thanks for tuning in.

Michele: Thank you.

Tina: Thank you.

Michele: Thank you for tuning in to the three siblings. We know we discussed some really tough topics on the show, so we want to make sure you've got the resources you need. If you're going through a tough time, dialing nine, eight eight will bring you to a suicide and crisis phone line. If you want to support the work we're doing on the show, the best thing to do is to leave a review on Apple podcasts. It might help someone else who needs to hear this and find this show. You can also follow us on social media at Three Siblings podcasts on Instagram and at Siblings podcast on Twitter. We are so excited to share more stories with you in our next episode.