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.

Brenda Marshall

Brenda Marshall, Ph.D., CT is a well known executive coach, speaker and founder of the Solacium Group. Her interest in grief work came after the sudden death of her younger brother in 2006. At the time, she was a senior level business consultant at a busy management consultancy. Recognizing the challenges she faced grieving her brother’s death while carrying on in her role, she decided to create a resource to support others. The Solacium Group is the first Canadian consulting firm dedicated to supporting and guiding leaders and their teams after the death of a loved one. Brenda now splits her time between general organizational consulting through FLOW Learning Group, Solacium consulting, and a busy writing and speaking schedule. She is a sought after expert in the field of Adult Sibling Loss and Grief in the Workplace, speaks at international events across North America and consults with professionals and individuals dealing with loss. Her book, Adult Sibling Loss: Stories, Reflections and Ripples, by Routledge Publishing Inc. has received wide praise. Her second book, Sibling Loss Across the Lifespan, by Routledge launched October 2016. Brenda holds a Ph.D. in Adult Education from the University of Toronto, an M.Ed. in Teaching and Learning from Brock University, a BSc. in Psychology and Criminology from the University of Toronto and has advanced training in Solution Focused and Narrative approaches to coaching and counselling. In addition she is a certified thanatologist, a designation held by fewer than 900 practitioners in North America. www.flowlearninggroup.ca

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