Unleash the Silence: Compassion for Surviving Siblings

Losing my beloved sisters Jane and Margie impacted my life in ways I did not comprehend until years later. Their passing shaped the person I am today. With hard work, support, guidance, and the cheering of many, I re-discovered Judy after 30 years.

The topic I choose to unleash, although extremely sensitive, needs to be heard. When a family experiences the death of a child/sibling, the entire family suffers a tremendous absence. Losing a sibling instills an immeasurable void. Very often, surviving siblings face an arduous burden of taking care of our parents and are not allowed the liberty of grieving ourselves.

I endured an immense loss. Sibling bonds provide an exclusive connection with a code unspoken. A sibling may know you better than you know yourself. They share a family history. Often you can be brutally honest and even fight with a sibling one minute, then laugh the next.

The path of grief charts a unique road to each individual. Walls come up in order to protect ourselves and the ones we love the most. Lines of communication become fractured. My parents and I never talked about my sisters because it was too painful for them. This resulted in many lost memories of Jane and Margie, a source of upset and distress for me. Memories are the core for me as I honor my sisters and keep them in my heart.

Jane’s life was cut tragically short at age 22. Margie and I composed words about Jane that our young rabbi included in his eulogy. He seemed to comprehend the importance of the sibling relationship.

Often times, surviving siblings do not seem important in the mourning process. Two incidents surrounding Margie’s passing illustrate this. The first presented itself in another rabbi’s eulogy. The rabbi made no reference to the sibling relationships, no mention of how much Margie meant to me. He totally missed the mark about siblings.

The second incident I remember vividly. After the funeral, as I waited for the babysitter to bring my young daughters,  I felt utterly alone. One of my parents’ friends, the only one who seemed to realize I appeared to be missing, found me and asked how I was. What a deep hollow void inside.

What about me? I always felt I had to be the cheerleader and bring light to everyone, crushing my own hurt, sorrow and pain. My parents lost not only one but two daughters. No one seemed to pay attention to my heartache and my feelings. I put myself on an incredibly busy path without time to think. I acted the part I thought I needed to play for everyone else. My identity disappeared.

Who am I now without my siblings? Being the sole survivor and now an only child instilled an intense pressure and a role foreign to me. Being the middle of three girls, I often felt pushed aside from my two sisters. Always in the background, now I had to take center stage and be there for my parents.

I tried so hard to be the daughter for three and should have remained true to my core, Judy the shy, introverted, middle sister. When my sisters died, all that vanished. There was no roadmap to guide me on where to go or who to be. I had no one to share or understood what missing and being without my siblings meant.

As we take steps to navigate our lives that are forever changed, and continue to change, I have learned several lessons. The first being when I lowered the walls and allowed myself to feel I opened the door and wonderful people came into my life. Another lesson extremely hard to comprehend by taking care of me selfish does not come into play, a new uncharted territory. I have to be me not filling a space for two lost sisters.

I do not know what the future holds, but now I have the tools to be stronger and have my sisters to carry me along. We cannot go back. We did the best at that time. It is complicated, challenging and emotional. Bottom line, love prevails.

 

 

 

 

 

Judy Lipson

More Articles Written by Judy

I am a sister who sadly lost both my sisters. I lost my younger beloved sister Jane died at age 22 in an automobile accident in 1981, and my older beloved sister Margie passed away at age 35 after a 20-year battle with anorexia and bulimia in 1990. I am the sole surviving sibling. As the Founder and Chair of “Celebration of Sisters,” this annual ice skating fundraiser honors and commemorates the lives and memories of my beloved sisters to benefit The John D. Stoeckle Center for Primary Care Innovation at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA. The event is scheduled the first Sunday in November as Jane’s birthday was November 6th and Margie’s November 8th. We celebrate all lost siblings, their legacies as they live on in all of us. Since the inception of Celebration of Sisters in 2011, I have embarked on the journey to mourn the losses of my beloved sisters that had been suppressed for 30 years. The process unmistakably the greatest challenging time in my life proved to be the most empowering, enlightening and freeing. Now that I am allowing my sisters and their memories to return to my heart where they truly belong, I am re-discovering myself, happier and more at peace. I share my love of ice-skating as a skating instructor in the learn to skate programs at the Babson Skating School and Bay State Skating School, and as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Therapeutic Skating Program at The Skating Club of Boston. I live in Boston and am the mother of two grown daughters. It is my goal to advocate for sibling loss to insure surviving siblings are neither alone nor forgotten.

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