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.

Loss Challenges

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.


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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