this is something that i have found to be a common phrase heard by sibling grievers. ‘get over it’ or ‘you should be over it by now’. let me just say this straight off the bat: we will never ‘get’ or ‘be’ over it. you would never say that to a grieving parent or a grieving spouse, would you? so why do sibling grievers hear this one?

i think it’s because people who don’t have siblings or have never lost one really don’t understand the depth of a sibling relationship. no matter how well you get along with your sibling, there is a blood bond. blood runs thicker than water. there is some truth to that. even siblings who despise one another have a strong connection too, albeit a negative one. so whichever way the emotions go, they reach deep into the core. of course, everyone is different and it is unfair of me to generalise things. i can only write about my personal experience.

my siblings, all three of us, have a strong bond, reaching all the way to the beginning of our existence. it’s true that i have a different one with my brother than i did with my sister but believe you me, if anything happens to my brother, i will probably lose my mind completely. i shudder at the thought.

my siblings are, aside from my life, the greatest gift that my parents gave me. i never could have possibly imagined a life without them which is why the death of my sister has rattled me so because there is this element of shock that came with losing her. it was simply inconceivable to think that i would have to bury my younger sister, the one who was ‘supposed’ to outlive all of us. i don’t wish this pain on anyone so when you say that you don’t understand, count yourself lucky. i won’t have children, so the pain of losing them is just as inconceivable to me and i count myself lucky for it. a sad concession, i know.

siblings are supposed to grow up and grow old together, to go through all of life’s stages together; kindergarten, elementary school, high school, pranks, being in cahoots, getting drunk for the first time, throwing up after drinking too much for the first time, bailing each other out, losing virginities, break-ups, university, college, getting jobs, losing jobs, first apartments, moving (in our case, moving A LOT), marriages, divorces, mortgages, bankruptcies, new cars, kids, no kids, losing grandparents, losing parents. they’re supposed to be a team until the very end. they’re supposed to be there.

life, however, doesn’t always play by those rules like it’s ‘supposed’ to. sometimes it even seems like there aren’t any rules at all.

the thing about my relationship with Barbara is that i didn’t know where i ended and where she began. our connection, our lives were so intertwined from the get go. by the time i was 5, i was already learning a 4th language. yes, i was lucky to have had that but it, as with everything else, came at a price. silence. i was afraid to speak up because i couldn’t find the right words in the right language. i was afraid of sounding stupid. kids are cruel and growing up in austria with a foreign letter in my last name – the č – was already a green light for bullying. add to that an accent and a wrong word and the fact that i was a teacher’s pet (because i wanted to be), well, i might as well have stuck the ‘kick me’ sticker on my back myself.

but when i came home from school, there was Barbara, the person that i could say any words to, in any language, in any shape and form, and she would understand because she would speak the same way. and it’s not just words, the feeling of isolation because of our heritage, our strange (literally) last name, our funny accents, everything that was odd about us was shared. was our common tongue. so we spent most of our free time together. i shared a room with her for 10 years. she followed me around wherever i went. many a times i would slam the door in her face because she was so close behind me. most of those slams were unintentional (insert evil laugh).

that’s a bond i didn’t have with anyone else and i don’t think i ever will.

then, moving across the atlantic once more, our bond strengthened. before cell phones, in high school (dan aykroyd’s high school no less. well, not his. he went there. you know what i mean. apparently he flooded the cafeteria one time as a prank.) we would write each other notes in german. we spoke in slovenian on the bus. the chances of anyone understanding were slim to none. so we thought at least. it was a fantastic time.

and even when we grew apart as teenagers, and believe me, we did, she asked me to do her make-up for her prom. she still borrowed (stole) my clothes. and on her myspace (something we had before social media. a platform where you were able to create a kind of website, even if a shitty one. a platform that shows my age. hey i’m 41. there. now you know.) going back to my original sentence, on her myspace where it said to write your hero, she wrote, ‘my sister’.

we chatted on msn live messenger (again, showing my age) even though she was in the room next to me. we performed at the high school talent show – david bowie’s ‘man who sold the world’ and tori amos’ ‘twinkle’. we fought and told each other to fuck off when we were roommates – sans parents. yet she still came to all of my concerts and recitals while i was in university, she still wrote toi toi toi for every performance i did with the opera house i work at.

she loved me unconditionally, even though i was often a jerk to her and undoubtedly not always the ideal sister she made me out to be.

now all of that is gone. she is gone. memories of her remain, she lives in my heart, bla bla bla. it hurts that i can’t remember her voice anymore. that i can’t call her anymore. that i can’t text her anymore. that i will never receive another text from her. another hug. another encouraging smile.

i’m shattered that on some days it feels as if she never even existed at all.

i can’t delete her phone number from my phone. i can’t delete her emails, even the silly ones or the one-sentence ones. i can’t bring myself to delete her contact info from my favourites. and the last viber sticker that she sent me still haunts me. violet sending xoxo, hearts and a kiss.

and the last word she ever said to me. ‘ok’. i can’t always take solace in that.

so, no. i will never get over it. a part of me is buried with her in that box, in the darkness of the earth. a part of me will never return, just like she won’t. i miss that part of me as much as i miss her because in many ways, we were one and the same, even though we didn’t see each other often enough in the years before she died. the connection was always there.

of course i get up every day. therapy has helped. so do the anti-depressants. so do the many wonderful people that i surround myself with. they are all over the world and i am grateful for them. of course i try to live my life as best as i can. some days are simply harder than others. some days i take it by the hour, by the minute. the kicker is that there are oftentimes no specific triggers which is what makes all of this so difficult for me.

the irregularity of grief is the hardest part to manage; its inevitability so harrowing that i try to divert my thoughts to other matters. otherwise i really think that i could go mad because i’d be stuck in a loop. circular grief. what a distressing notion.

so when i cry sometimes, it doesn’t mean that i haven’t moved on with my life, because i have. i have simply moved on while carrying the pain with me wherever i go. it’s just more present on some days than on others, without a pattern or a particular provocation. the pain’s always there, even though i try not to wear it on my sleeve.

and in a way, it’s reassuring to know that i still have a brother who understands exactly how i feel. he gets it because he also speaks and feels my language or, in our case, all of them. after all, shared grief is a little easier. so there is that, i guess.