Dr. Brenda Marshall talks about adult sibling loss with Dr. Heidi Horsley at the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling conference. Dr. Marshall entered the field when her younger brother, Brent, died suddenly eight years ago. She found little support for adult siblings, which led her on a path to figuring out why this was and what she could do about it. “A lot of people take their sibling for granted and assume they’re always going to be there,” she says. Especially when siblings are close in age, many people think death won’t touch them. Not only does the death of a sibling mean a huge loss, but it’s also a reminder of one’s own mortality.
“We never think our siblings are going to die,” she says. There are also assumptions, as adults, that you’re not as impacted by the death of a sibling since you no longer share a home with them or may not see them on a regular basis. Dr. Horsley relates, since her brother was 17 and she was 20 when he died. Dr. Horsley was in college, and found that many people assumed the death didn’t hurt her as much.
Finding Hope Again
Just like with any type of loss, building your own support network is key. Acknowledge to yourself that the loss matters, just as much as it does to anyone else. Of course, your parents may be in deep grief, too, but that doesn’t diminish a sibling’s grief. Dr. Marshall also recommends reaching out to “outside” support groups, citing Open to Hope as a great resource.
As the author of Adult Sibling Loss: Stories, Reflections and Ripples, Dr. Marshall has delved deep into the subject and her book provides advice and tips on how to handle sibling loss as an adult.