updated 01/05/2008 AT 7:00 PM ET
•originally published 01/05/2008 AT 8:00 PM ET
Nearly a year after her sister’s death, Lynne stood before the grave of Sandra Bridges Covington, who had died of ovarian cancer Jan. 21.
“It’s been a hard year,” Covington’s former sister-in-law, Libby Covington, told PEOPLE from Amite, La., noting that the grieving process has been difficult amid the constant media attention the family receives. “There’s something new every day.”
At the Tangipahoa (La.) Cemetery on Saturday, silk hydrangeas, white daisies and pink roses adorned the gravestone, along with a Christmas arrangement.
Sandra Covington was a beloved member of the Spears’s extended family, and had been crucial in Britney’s young life.
“Sandra’s like a second mother to Britney,” Lynne told PEOPLE in 2002, as her sister first began battling cancer and undergoing treatment, including a bone marrow transplant. “This kind of thing makes you grow up.”
At the time, as Lynne was caring for her sister, Britney helped look after Jamie Lynn and told PEOPLE in the same interview, “I pray every night about it.”
After Covington passed away last year, Spears attended her funeral at the First United Methodist Church in Amite but quickly left town. A month later, she landed in rehab, prompting family friends to wonder if her aunt’s death was at the root of some of her problems.
“She was very close to her aunt,” Britney’s former dance teacher Renee Donewar told PEOPLE. “I know her death was real rough on her.”
Reporting by Mark Lambert and Alicia Dennis