Siblings are Forever
The relationship we share with our siblings can be the longest-lasting relationship we will ever have. If you’re an older sibling, you’ve likely known your brother or sister since their birth. If you’re a younger sibling, they’ve been there your entire life. There’s a good chance we might experience more life events and changes with our siblings than with anyone else.
Since I am the oldest child in my family and was five years old when I first became a sibling, I remember both being an only child and the birth of each of my three siblings. Things have changed a lot since our family has grown. As many older siblings can attest, there are both benefits and drawbacks to that position. If you’re older you probably get to do things first, but your younger siblings get to do things earlier.
Siblings are the friends who are there for the good times but also see all of your flaws and witness those embarrassing moments that come with adolescence. Most siblings have a shared history of growing up together that creates a unique bond. We don’t just share genetics, but also stories, secrets, and even a language. We can say just a few words or a look and know what the other is thinking. There is a lifetime of memories and inside jokes to draw from.
Siblings Help Us Enjoy Life
Having siblings can teach us about problem-solving and considering different perspectives. Siblings can support each other through their differences and share their own strengths. Sometimes these are practical skills, and sometimes they’re the things that help us enjoy life and support us through the hard times.
I trust that my siblings are always on my team, just as I’m on theirs. And just like on a team, one person’s strengths benefit everyone. Not just through their presence in our lives, but when we learn from them and try to follow them. And when we lose a member of the team, one of the many things we lose are their strengths.
We define ourselves through the ways in which we’re similar and the ways we are different; how we relate to them and try to establish independence from them; becoming individuals but finding a place to belong. They reflect on us and we reflect on them. We contain parts of each other.
The Death of My Brother
When my brother Adam died, we lost all of the ways he made our lives better and the pieces of us attached to him.
It’s impossible to ignore the empty space. Sometimes I find myself having to count up how many of us there are because I’m so used to being a family of six. You never had to think about it. It’s hard not to feel abandoned by someone that you had always expected would be there. To not only enjoy life and memories and experiences with, family dinners and camping trips and text messages to share happy news, calls for support when you’re sad or upset, but also to help you endure the losses you expect in the future.
Losing one of us was a huge blow to our family, as siblings, and as individuals. For me, it changed so much about how I see the world. My family is such a big part of who I am and how I define myself, so it’s no surprise that a loss like this would change so much about who I am.
It was also my siblings who were so important to me in beginning to heal and figure out how to keep going. Seeing that we were hurt but not broken. They understood like no one else what it was like to lose not just a brother, but to lose our brother.
Patience with Self and Others
I realized even more so how strong and important our bond is, knowing that we’ll always be connected no matter what. Seeing them grieving in different ways helped me be more patient with myself. Just like I’ve tried to be a good example throughout their lives, I felt an obligation to show them my vulnerabilities in case they happened to be feeling the same way.
When I’m with them I know that I don’t have to hide how I’m feeling. We were close before Adam died, but I think that bond has only grown stronger since, or at least the recognition of it. And not only with each other, but also with Adam. Because for me, the only way I’ve been able to keep living is through the belief that our relationship didn’t end, it just changed. When a sibling leaves your life through any means, they can never be an ex-sibling. Even if you never talk again, they will always be your brother or sister and that link can’t be severed.
Brother’s Spirit Continues in Me
Even though Adam died, he will always be my brother and we still support each other, just in different ways. Thinking about what Adam would say to me in a situation can give me the confidence to move forward; watching a TV show or movie he liked can be a way of spending time with him, remembering the parts where he laughed or by rooting for his favourite characters; reaching out to someone like I know Adam would is a way that I can do something for him.
If it’s true that he took a part of me, it means he also left parts of himself with us. Even though he’s no longer here in person, I carry him and everything he’s given me.
Siblings can be so many different things for one another: friends, enemies, heroes, antagonizers, allies, teachers, defenders, competitors, advocates, path-breakers.
I can’t describe who I am without talking about my siblings.
They’ve made me the person I am.
They’re a part of me.
There is so much that we lost when my brother died, but I can’t lose any of that.