anger is a big one for me. i’ve been handling it much better now but it took me a while to even recognise it because it came in so many different forms. plus, i wasn’t used to be angry all the time. and by all the time i mean all the time.

the thing about losing my sister is that i lost so much of myself, so much of my own history, our family’s history, our future that it all got/gets muddled leaving me drained but at the same time full of overwhelming emotions of various kinds. it took me years, therapy, pills, personal growth to finally identify them all as anger which encompassed everything from hate to frustration, irritability, jealousy, rage and what have you. all of the above.

now, emotions don’t come with a full description of symptoms and possible side effects or an expiry date and they don’t all happen one after the other like a bunch of well-trained soldiers marching in a row. after the initial stage of shock and sorrow, anger made its appearance in a very big and uninvited way. it left me feeling exhausted, encompassing so much of my day to day life that there was little else i was thinking about most of the time. i became obsessed, engulfed in the constant turmoil of all that the loss of my sister had to offer and all that the loss entailed. i couldn’t even scratch the surface of what that actually meant.

at the beginning, of course, i was mostly dealing with the anger of losing her. of her just being gone and that it will remain so until i die. repeating this thought reminds me of how unfathomable the concept of eternity is. it’s a downward spiral and i can’t go there because i might never get out.

but after that introductory anger which was palpable as much as it was understandable, after that came the whirlwind of all that follows – that which encompasses every aspect of the loss itself. i became angry, i still am angry, that i am losing our shared memories because i am forgetting them. that my past self is disappearing somewhere behind my perception. i’m angry that any new memories i will make won’t have her in it. that i won’t be able share them with her. that i can’t call her. that i can’t email her. that i’ll never be able to do those things again.

then, of course, all the anger outside of me, outside of my control. how her death has forever changed and to some extent ruined my family. whatever balance there was, it’s off. i am no longer a middle child, for example. this might not seem like a big deal but it is to me. the hierarchy has crumbled and it will never be built again. at least not the way it once way. (which is not necessarily a bad thing, i suppose).

it kills me that i can only deal with my own grief and nobody else’s. i just don’t have the energy, the emotional knowledge. plus, it’s not really my responsibility. i can listen, i can hug, share a tear, but actually deal with the grief? no way. we each have to do it ourselves. we have to face it ourselves. it’s a lonely thought.

and it’s not a matter of compensating for the missing person. i don’t think i ever actively (consciously) did that. to be honest, i was probably too sad to try. plus, you can’t take anyone else’s place in life, you can only live your own. just like with pain, with grief. easier said than done, mind you.

then the fact that i no longer have a sister. that word is basically out of my vocabulary. my parents still have kids, my brother still has a younger sister. i don’t. it’s not easier for them, i know. it’s just different. i feel a pang in my heart when someone talks about their sister. yeah, it makes me angry that they still have one whereas i don’t.

last week was the first time that i didn’t mention her after someone asked, oh you have an older brother? yes, i do, is all i said and that was it. i didn’t say that i used to have a sister. i’m not sure if that’s growth or just laziness. it still hurts in any case. and a part of me was really pissed off that i didn’t say anything.

then there’s the anger directed at her. why the fuck did she have to die? why did she leave me in this shit world? we all grieve in a personal way, in a selfish way. of course i know she didn’t leave me, per se, but that’s how it felt. how it still feels sometimes. and yes, i know, she was sick. but that’s a rational thought. my heart’s not rational which is why it asks somewhat impertinently, so why did she get sick in the first place? insert a mouth pout, arms crossed, eyebrows raised.

then i get angry because i don’t recognise myself in the mirror anymore. because i have changed. because a part of me died and now i’m this new being, this new person. i do miss the person i was even though i can’t put my finger on what exactly it was that made the old me ‘me’. but something has been altered, something outside of my control did this and it has turned me upside down, forcing me to be in a new place and there is no going back. there is only a b.B. (before Barbara) and an a.B. (after Barbara). i can’t equate it with losing a limb because i don’t know what that feels like and it might seem insulting of me to even try and make that comparison. but i am also a teacher and i always look for similarities, for ways to explain things to myself and others. to try and make sense of this mess and this is comparison seems to be something i can roughly imagine to be similar. the limb is gone but it still seems there simply because it should be there.

but it’s not and it’ll never grow back.

then the anger towards the entire world for letting her go. for moving on as if nothing ever happened, as if her life had no meaning, as if her life never even existed. what does that say about my life, about life in general? what is the point of it all if we all turn to dust in the end?

for the longest time i was angry that all the methods that i used to have to keep my sanity, to make me find my inner peace (music, meditation etc.) no longer worked. if anything those methods made me more anxious. they made me angrier.

and the anger that nobody seemed to understand why a sibling’s death is so painful. people stopped asking me. they interrupted me when i started talking about her. no, i won’t drop to the floor in hysterics. i just want to talk about her, about losing her and about what that’s done to me. but nobody wanted to listen even though that’s all i ever wanted. i finally found online groups that discussed this and i felt heard there.

then the anger that i feel when facing the fact that i have to keep living. not just keep living without her but that i just have to keep doing it, day in day out. in those moments i don’t see life as a gift but as a curse. survivor’s guilt too, i suppose. surely, her presence on this earth would have made much more sense than mine. she was happier, more likeable, friendlier. more positive. the world needs people like her not people like me – somewhat adverse, negative. less likeable. why does she get to die while i have to keep trudging along?

not only do i have to keep trudging along, i also have to do it with this new ‘me’.  who the hell is she?

and, yes, i also have to do it without her. that always kicks me when i’m down.

at this point, i guess, it’s a good opportunity, in a way, to re-evaluate my life and to start anew. believe me, i’m trying. sometimes i have to actively tell myself several times a day to at least try. as with anything, it gets easier with practice. and while i live with the knowledge that some of this anger will always remain, i am convinced that it has, at least, led me to attempt an improved life with an improved self. the loss will never be easier, her presence will always be missed but at the end of the day, here i am and i can either decide to be angry and let it fester until i wither into an old, discontented hag or i can acknowledge its existence and deal with it as i go. nobody else is going to make that choice for me and i do still have a life that needs, no, deserves to be lived so i might as well give it my best.

one day at a time.