Dr. Gloria Horsley interviews Dr. Brenda Marshall from Toronto, Canada. A management executive and executive coach, she’s completing her doctorate degree in adult education at the University of Toronto. Adult sibling loss is one of the most disenfranchised of losses. Suddenly, a few years ago, Marshall’s brother died. That was her “last day of normal.” Her world fell apart at that point. When she looked for support from the community, she found nothing for adult siblings—all sibling loss focus was on teens and children. There are many myths about losing a sibling as an adult, starting with the idea that once a person has left the family home they’ve embraced a new life.
“Your lives are still very intertwined,” she says. Often, you play big roles in one another’s lives. Your siblings are your longest relationship, and it’s common to assume you’ll be in one another’s lives forever. Your siblings are often your closest friend. You don’t have to be living together to miss a sibling when they die. Even if you have other siblings, losing one doesn’t “make it okay,” she says. Other siblings don’t replace one another.
Think about all those family gatherings—one person will always be missing from now on. If they were married with children and their spouse chooses not to continue the relationship, you’ve lost an even bigger part of your life. One of the unique challenges is that society doesn’t view adult sibling loss as significant. Nobody wants to listen to you talk about happy memories about your sibling.
Talking about someone who’s gone can be very healthy, but what happens if nobody wants to listen? Many adult siblings also feel like they need to support their parents. Getting lost amidst everything is common.