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How do I deal with the death of my only sister?

Grief has been washing over me for a few years now, sometimes up close and in my sobbing, sometimes dull and far away as I try and make sense and adjust to this new reality. I’d like to share with the readers how I manage the grief of losing my only sister and how I adjust to this new life.

When my grief is up close and sinks my heart down, I usually pull up old photos of my sister, going back to a time when she was still living. I have voicemails of hers saved from birthdays or just random missed calls, and listening to her voice makes her feel so much more present in my life. Having these old memories with her helps me to remember that we did share a life together and have little treasures left from it that I can always use to feel close to her.

Another technique to help my soul when I’m thinking of Anlya often is going on what I call “ghost hikes.” But I take a hike on a beautiful trailhead that’s in my area or up north in Skagit County and will visualize Anlya walking with me, and I imagine what our conversations would be like now. This helps me to feel like she’s alongside with me, because we used to go hiking so much together, it’s the most natural place for her to be and I can feel her presence most strongly.

I also have made a playlist on Spotify of music that reminds me of her. Some songs are from when she would share her music with me when she was away at Western, some is from music we discovered together growing up, some is from musicians that sing from their experience with grief. This music is an anchor for me and helps me capture all the parts and pieces of her spirit that can be captured in other people’s words.

She also would send me poetry a lot in the year leading up to her death, and I have those saved in my Google Docs, so I will go and read her words just to be close to her ideas and her voice.

When my grief is far away, I try and journal about what I’m feeling. I use a voice notes app on my phone to save my thumbs from the typing and I’ll just spill out whatever reservations I have about “getting farther” away from Anlya as the time moves on. I try to record whatever dreams I have with her in them, because I’m scared someday she might not be a part of my life or psyche. I don’t want to forget the pieces of her that I have.

I exercise a lot when I’m upset too, as it’s a good physical outlet for any rage or negative energy. Swimming, kickboxing, dancing, weight training and yoga are all really awesome outlets for moving your body and taking yourself out of your brain.

I also try to intentionally start my day, thinking compassionately of all those who suffer, and remember to make the most out of life and create a better future for new souls to come. I try to say yes more often to opportunities and take care of myself because I want to honor her unlived adult life and her passing.

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