Being a sibling survivor can make one feel like an alien at times. There may be a classroom full of students who are dealing with a divorce at home. But chances are poor that others are coping with the death of a brother or sister.

It is a relatively small club. That is a good thing of course, but it can force the remaining siblings to alienate themselves, which is not advantageous to a child. Through my writing, I hope to remind fellow survivors that others exist who have been in the same unenviable shoes and have managed to march on.

The truth is, these experiences become part of us. We can use pain to make us empathetic, or to motivate us to achieve goals. It makes us appreciate what others do not or cannot. Bad things happen; we learn to make lemonade. The taste is still sour, but it goes down. And we try to add sweetness as much as we can.

The psychologist Viktor Frankl exemplified the human predicament. After spending time in a concentration camp as a child during World War II, Frankl became interested in the condition of human suffering.

Why do some people emerge from stressful experiences with strength while others get weaker or give up? He decided that the distinction was the ability to find meaning in the suffering, to use it as fuel to persevere. Frankl discusses this in his wonderful book Man’s Search for Meaning, and his ideas have been transformed into a psychological therapy known as logotherapy (Frankl, 1959).

As I see it, this is his term for “making lemonade.” Not an easy task, but it can be done….

From the inside and out, I know how it is to feel fundamentally different.  I understand how guilt, sadness, anger, fear, and exhaustion can combine in the psyche. I have experienced withdrawal into oneself with the belief that no one else understands. And I empathize with being alone and feeling lonely, which are not the same sensations.

I connect with the desire to alleviate the pain, to want life to be normal once again. Fleeting glimpses of happiness are common for me. I identify with the confusion. I get it.

If I have written this in such a way that another person—child or adult—can relate, then I have accomplished my goal.

This is an excerpt from Turning the Page: Helping a Child Cope with the Loss of a Sibling, by Sue Trace Lawrence.


Sue Trace Lawrence

Sue Lawrence is an Adjunct Professor of Psychology who began teaching at Ursinus in 2011. An alumna of Ursinus who graduated with a B.S. in psychology in 1983, she earned her M.Ed. and certification in School Counseling at West Chester University. At the present time she is working toward a graduate certificate in neuropsychology from Ball State University. While a student at Ursinus, she served as the teaching assistant for Experimental Psychology and earned Departmental Honors for her research on learned helplessness. In addition, her original sociology research was published in Pennsylvania Folklife. In addition to teaching psychology at UC and other colleges, Sue has worked as a counselor and educational consultant, along with holding teaching and administrative positions in early childhood programs. She is a certified PQAS trainer for the state of Pennsylvania and provides professional development trainings for early childhood and school age staff in her position as Assistant Childcare Director for the Pottstown Branch of the Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA. Sue has written and self-published a book of poems and short-stories in collaboration with her late brother entitled Sob Stories. Currently, Sue has been conducting original research with UC students on the topics of childhood loss, grief, and trauma. She is currently working on a children’s book on sibling loss and has published a handbook for adults entitled Turning the Page: Helping a Child Cope with the Loss of a Sibling. Her future research interests lie in further exploring how early childhood traumatic grief experiences influence children into adulthood.

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