Okay, I talk about “carrying” a lot, with regard to sibling loss. What do I mean by that? I mean the tendency we surviving siblings have to find a way to “carry” our lost siblings forward into our present-day lives. It’s a way of continuing the relationship with some one who is gone—in fact, grief-speak for this phenomenon is “continuing bonds.” How people do it varies, but why we do it is more straightforward.

We try to carry our siblings forward because they are part of our identities, and our half of the relationship doesn’t end with their deaths. We need them as reference points to remember who we are. We do it because loyalty and fairness are two aspects of life we learn within the sibling relationship. They continue to inform it well after we’ve become adults, whether our siblings are alive or dead. We do it because it can feel too disorienting and disloyal to move forward in order not to leave part of ourselves behind. We carry them forward in order not to leave part of ourselves frozen, un-aged, in time.

We carry them forward because siblings were meant to be parallel travelers, in life’s longest relationship. We carry them forward because in order for us to go forward with our own lives, whole, unhampered by guilt at having been the ones chosen to survive, we often need them to come, too.

And so we find a way.

Writing books (hello!), fund-raising for a cause, raising awareness about a disease (like cancer) or a hazard (like drunk driving), volunteering, scrapbooking, memorial websites—there are an infinite variety of ways.

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Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn

Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn is the author of The Empty Room: Surviving Sibling Loss, a memoir and journalistic exploration of sibling loss. Her brother, Ted, suffered from a rare immune deficiency disorder and spent 8 years in an isolation room behind a plastic curtain before he died. He was one of two boys upon whom the movie “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” was based. She is a contributing writer for More magazine, and has also written for Self, Discover, Psychology Today and Harper’s Bazaar, among other publications. Elizabeth is currently working on a new book, The Death of Cancer, with her father, Dr. Vincent T. DeVita. She lives in New York City with her husband, writer Paul Raeburn, and her son, Henry. To learn more about Elizabeth and her work go to: www.devitaraeburn.com or visit her blog: www.tedishere.blogspot.com Elizabeth appeared on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart” discussing the Death of a Sibling. To hear her interviewed by Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley, click on the following link: www.voiceamericapd.com/health/010157/horsley070705.mp3

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