Stephen Stott, a Columbia University graduate and one of Dr. Heidi Horsley’s former students, is in the field of sibling loss after losing his own sister in 2002. Stott’s mother started attending The Compassionate Friends meetings immediately, but it took Stott over a decade to join. His mother asked if he felt comfortable going, and for the first time since his sister died, he said yes. “I think the experience was great, but I was nervous,” he says.
He didn’t know what to expect, he didn’t know the people, but found it was helpful to be around people who had similar experiences. It can be intimidating to build a support network, and having those in your corner who empathize is critical. Sometimes “outsiders” can mistakenly say the wrong things, but having people near you who know how you feel can help bridge that gap.
Healing from Sibling Loss
“How do we get our kids to go to Compassionate Friends?” asks Dr. Horsley. Today, Stott is very involved with the program, and encourages parents to just keep giving the option. Never force a child to participate even if they do attend. Stott began by hanging out, doing his own thing, and slowly got to know people and form friendships. This gave him comfort, and he began attending activities. However, there were also times when he didn’t attend the group and just met up with those from the program.
Sibling loss is unique to every person. Stott and his sister were close in age, and he says he missed out on his future with her (and vice versa). That makes it different from losing a parent or grandparent, since you expect your siblings to die around the same time as yourself. That means the majority of your life is spent without your sibling, and that type of loss is often minimized.