real life

'My sister got me through lockdown in 2020. Now she's not here and I'm lost.'

There’s been a lot of discussion about why this lockdown is harder than the one we had at the same time last year.

Freedom Day in London, international travel possible all over the world… while most Aussies are in varying degrees of lockdown. It quite simply sucks because we thought we were out of it – or at least could see the shining light at the end of the tunnel.

For me, and so many others, there’s an extra layer of suckiness – and it’s an unspoken one because it feels so isolating, so private, too raw.

The person who got them through last year is no longer here.

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Because of COVID-19 or another illness, or maybe even an accident – that person, who cannot be replaced by the love of others – has disappeared. And it is hard.

Every day of lockdown is a reminder of the gaping hole they left behind and no matter how much love is around us, it doesn’t make the chasm any less.

For me, that person was my sister Raji who died in Adelaide during the July Sydney lockdown of 2020.

Up until July 31, 2020 - when she was ripped from my life with no warning - Raji, just 42, was a psychiatrist and mum-of-two. She was beautiful, kind, funny, the most generous person you’d ever meet, and one of my best friends for more than four decades.

Since then, I’ve been through other restrictions without her – but this time, this four-weeks-and-going lockdown in Sydney, it’s really hurting. 


Sounds selfish, doesn’t it? But it is still valid, and I know I’m not the only one terribly missing someone who’s totally uncontactable –  permanently. Trust me, my friends in the same position, you’re not alone.

I feel that I was already drowning in heartbreak in the lead up to Raji’s first anniversary, and now I’m dealing with that in lockdown, and home-schooling, and juggling all the things – and I can’t help but be reminded that the person who was here for me in those dramatic, chaotic, life-changing first months of 2020, is not here.

And, dear god, I so want her to be. I want my sister, goddamn it.

In the first half of 2020, Raji and I (okay mostly Raji) supported each other through a variety of unfamiliar new terms like homeschooling and lockdown and pandemic.

We laughed about toilet paper madness, discussed ‘Sydney behaviour’ vs ‘Adelaide behaviour’, and mask-wearing. She was such a big part of our family group texts, imparting her knowledge from the medical community about what was happening.

But most of all, Raji kept my sanity on the phone with texts and long chats about the world going up in flames, because the only thing we could rely on at the time was each other, in the way only sisters can. 

Oh, and she express-posted toilet paper after my third 6am trip to Woolies to find the shelves bare.

But that wasn’t the last package I got from Raji.


Twenty-four hours before she died, she sent me a huge care package because NSW was locking down and SA wasn’t. The package was filled with Haigh’s chocolates (an Adelaide staple), my favourite scented candle, my favourite lipstick – things to show she loved me, and she was with me.

As I opened that box, I had no idea what the next hours of her and my life would bring.

We played phone tag, with me trying to call to thank her that day. She called me when I was asleep that night, and unbeknownst to me, was too sick to call the next day… and then she died that night.

And so. 

I’ve spent the last year without her in the special moments... Christmas, family birthdays, Mother’s Day. I know a lot of you know what those firsts feel like.

And now, we are a week away from her first anniversary. From Melbourne and Sydney, my youngest sister and I were meant to join our mother and other sister in Adelaide. Now we’re all in lockdown.

For all of these reasons, that’s why this lockdown is so different for me – and for so many others.

Because someone who cannot be replaced, whom we loved and depended on, is just not here this time.

Nama Winston is a solo mum, and BFF of an incredible queer teen and Churchill the dog. Former lawyer, now opinion and parenting writer. Proud WOC, and single parent advocate. Find her on Instagram and Facebook.