There are many things expect to experience in our lives, but losing a sibling is not one of them. It certainly wasn't something I thought I would deal with in my lifetime, but low and behold, in December of 1996 I lost my older sister and immediately became part of a club of sibling survivors. Obviously, being new to the club, I didn't understand all that was involved.
First and foremost, losing a sibling is a very lonely experience. A lot of people didn't know what to say to me. People didn't ask how I was doing. They would ask how my parents were doing, which I understood, but no one asked how I was. It got me thinking, Was my loss less significant than my parents' loss? I'm not trying to compare the two, but my loss was significant.
I was close to my sister just as other people are close to their brothers and sisters. Losing them is having a chapter end prematurely. That person will never see you grow up. He/she won't see you married or meet your children. Your children will never get to know that brother or sister, that aunt or uncle.
You can talk about them — and I certainly talk about my sister Lucy — but my girls will never truly know my sister because she is not around.
Another aspect of being a sibling survivor is that the world doesn't acknowledge our loss. If you are a widow or if your parents die, many people will come around and share that experience, but not a lot of people are out there talking about losing their siblings.
It's a feeling of being all by yourself, that there is no one else that you can talk to. Other people I have talked to that are sibling survivors have expressed they felt guilty when talking to their parents about their own loss, so they would push that down because they wanted to be strong for their parents.
I certainly had that same experience. Yet, I wanted very much for my loss to be acknowledged. I wanted to be able to grieve. I grieved, but it was hard because I didn't want my parents to see me sad. In the years that have gone by, I talked to my parents about my feelings and it's been very helpful. Hopefully, if you've lost a brother or sister, you can talk to your parents in the years to come.
I'm on a mission to give a voice to sibling survivors so we aren't all by ourselves, so we can find each other if we want to talk. If we want support, there is support. It is helpful knowing other people who know exactly what you're going through.
Perhaps there are people who are slightly further down the road then you are who can look back and say, "Yes, I remember the 1-year anniversary or the birthday or Christmas or other major events," and give suggestions on how they got through it. And perhaps that will help.
I want to create a dialogue, so whether you're a sibling survivor, or the friend or work colleague of a sibling survivor, you have the words and the knowledge to properly acknowledge the loss, and help yourself or a sibling survivor to continue on with life and live it fully.