Yes, it is dreadful for our parents when our sibling, their child, dies. Horrific actually, made even more so because we know. We see it in their faces and feel it in their words. We know because we may be parents ourselves and the thought of losing one of our children is unfathomable. It’s also awful for our sibling’s spouse and their children. We see and feel it in their faces and wonder how they will survive.
And, it is dreadful for us too. We’ve lost our mirror, our confidante, in some cases our anchor and the person we expected to be with us forever. Our families are changed, scarred; the absence of our sibling, and sometimes their entire family at holiday events, cuts to the core.
And, for many bereaved siblings, we’ve lost our stories. Our parents, so traumatized by the death of their child, can no longer bear to speak their name. There are no “remember when….” stories ending with laughter; we learn that just mentioning our sibling’s name causes too much pain. As one bereaved sibling said to me, “You quickly get to know what you can and can’t say.”
This place or role as “grief observer” versus “griever” is lonely. It’s easy to make the leap that our own grief must somehow be less than that of other “closer” family. “You hear it enough; you start to think maybe you really shouldn’t be feeling so bad. Maybe something is wrong with me,” a bereaved sister said to me.
Losing a sibling at any age matters. It is a profound loss and just hearing the words, “this must be so hard for you,” can mean so much. For me, writing and finding ways to continue sharing stories about my brother were and are the best gifts anyone could offer me. When I talk about him, he’s with me. And I like that.
Brenda Marshall 2012