So, a few months back, I gave a talk about sibling loss at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. As you might imagine, there tend to be quite a few bereft siblings in the audience at these things. And they all have stories. Amazing, sad, beautiful ones that both elate me—because they’re a celebration of the bond—and make me want to cry.

This particular evening was no exception. After the talk, a woman named Chrissy Rubin came up to me and told me that she had lost two siblings—Greg, 22, on July 9, 1984, and Carolyn, 43, exactly twenty years later, on July 9, 2004—to the same cause, a malignant brain tumor.

It’s a lesson—which I have learned, humbly, many times—in not getting too caught up in the sadness of your own story. Because no matter how sad yours is, there’s always someone else who has one that can completely knock the breath out of you. Chrissy’s was like that.

It was a rushed encounter—there were lots of people who wanted to say hello, or share a story, before ducking out into what I recall being a rather rainy night. But Chrissy—who I think (but can no longer remember) was one of a number of surviving siblings—did manage to tell me that her brother, Justin, had made a short film about Greg and Carolyn that had won second prize in a film a challenge sponsored by an organization called SU2C (Stand up to Cancer). The organization’s belief is that the basic science we need to treat cancer more effectively exists—but that we need to work harder to get it translated to usable treatments. Their mission is to make that happen.

Chrissy gave me a link to the film, called “No Next,” which I just watched. It’s gorgeous, and I don’t mind telling you it totally un-did me. But in a beautiful way, if you know what I mean. It’s a loving and elegant visual poem to two lost siblings and, by extension, a testimony to the enduring love we carry for those who are gone. It’s also a lovely example of carrying.  Check it out— And get your Kleenex ready.

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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: or visit her blog: 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:

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