Scott Mastley: It didn?t hit me immediately, but after a while, it kind of came to me that I was an only child and that eventually I was going to be older than my older brother and that was a pretty weird situation where I remember the day, actually, when I lived longer than he did and I still look at the pictures and even now, I feel like he looked older than I do now which I?m sure is not the case, but it just feels that way. He?s always going to feel like my older brother.
Scott Mastley: I would ask the siblings what can your parents say to you to help you? And the kind of responses that I got from siblings are things like, the most helpful thing parents can say to the surviving children were that you don?t expect them to take the place of your siblings, we don?t expect you to take on his or her goals or try to live her life or to all of a sudden become the funny one at the table. We don?t expect you to fill that space and that we love you for who you are and we don?t expect you to be any different but we want you to talk to us about what you?re going through and don?t feel like you have to protect us by keeping your feelings from us. Those were some of the things that siblings said and then they said really not to push too much. A lot of surviving siblings said they felt that their parents tried to push the conversation a little bit by always wanting to talk about the surviving sibling.
Scott Mastley: I can tell you why a lot of surviving siblings don?t talk to their parents as much as their parents wish they would is because they want to protect them. Surviving siblings will say, hey, my parents are just destroyed by this. They?re sad all the time, especially in the early few years of grief and they say I don?t want to add to their sadness. I say hey, I?m hurting, too, but we all know that we?re all hurting and just admitting it doesn?t all of a sudden bring it into light. It?s there anyway. So in my experience, it?s better for the parents just to say we?re here for you when you want to talk about it, give them their space, and not to say things like who are you talking to about this? And I want to make sure you?re dealing with it and handling it because sometimes it pushes kids away who are dealing with it. A lot of times they are talking with their friends more candidly than they?re talking with their parents because they?re trying to be strong for their parents.
Scott Mastley: The number one thing that I always hear from bereaved parents is why don?t they talk to me? Why doesn?t he talk to me? Why doesn?t she talk to me? Is she going through this or not? The kids, the surviving siblings, no matter what age usually try to protect their parents. They try to be strong. They say I don?t want to add to the grief here. I don?t want to add to the sadness. I want to show them that I?m doing okay so that it?s one less thing that they have to deal with. In most situations, that?s what?s happening.
Scott Mastley: Well, I realized that before Chris died, I never cried really at all. Even in my early 20s and teens and everything, I just never cried about anything and then all of a sudden after Chris?s death, I cried a lot, and I couldn?t believe it, and so I would cry by myself, and then I was wondering, hey, what?s going on here. I?m trying to be strong and deal with this, and I?m crying, and I can?t really control it, but when I finally decided that hey, I can?t go around it, I can?t go over it, anything like that, I just have to go straight through it, which is what Jim Derr, who is a long-time surviving sibling had told me. He said people try to go over it, around it, under it, but the only way to successfully survive it is to go straight through it. So once I just said you know what, either I can let it come over me and accept that this is part of who I am and learn how to carry it, or I can try to hold it off.
Scott Mastley: I realized that hey, this is going to happen to me whether I want it to happen or not so I?d better decide that I need to accept that this is part of who I am now and learn how to live with it instead of trying to pretend it?s not there.
Scott Mastley: My biggest challenge is that feeling of isolation, that feeling that the closest person in the world to me is gone and I can?t just pick up the phone and call him when I want to, I can?t share joys with him, or I can?t commiserate with him over the phone, or have a few beers with him, or anything. You?re just gone. And that is a pretty big feeling of isolation because you have friends, you have relatives, you have your family, but that person is gone and cannot be replaced.
Scott Mastley: The best piece of advice I could give would be not to dwell on the whys and the what ifs, in other words, the longer you dwell on the unknowns, the questions that you?re never going to have answers to, like for me, why did Chris pull out in the middle of that intersection and what was he doing? Was he changing his radio station? Was he distracted? All the things that I?m never going to know. The longer that I dwell on those, the harder it?s going to be for me to accept the reality of the grief and to kind of adapt to it. The way I like to think of it is that I just find the answers that I can live with, the answers that I can accept, and then I try to understand that there are some questions I?m not going to get the answers to, and I know there are a lot of religious questions that come up, too, and I just have to reason those out and deal with them and say this is something that?s a part of who I am. It?s heavy, and I have to learn to carry it. I have to learn to carry the tremendous weight of grief and learn how to live with it.
Scott Mastley: Time is obviously the best healer. It has made a huge difference for our family. It?s been ten years for me, and I know the first two years especially for me were the hardest. For other people it?s a different time thing. Don?t hold yourself to any time line or anything, but just understand that there are a lot of us survivors out here and we?re all surviving and we?re doing okay. That eventually, you?ll learn to live with it even though it?s not fun, it?s just something that will happen so don?t give up. The definition of surviving is actually rising to act, and I think if you?re going to survive the grief, survive the loss of a loved one, then you have to eventually get up, you gotta get back up eventually, so don?t give up.
Scott Mastley: I just want to tell people not to give up and to have faith in themselves and to reach out to other people when they need people, and that Compassionate Friends is there. It?s a great bereavement support group that has helped millions of people worldwide and I definitely encourage you to get in touch with that group if you haven?t already.