The Grief of Losing a Sibling


When your sibling dies, you lose a part of your past, present and future.

My mother said that I became a second mommy at the ripe age of 4, which was the moment my brother was placed in my arms. As he grew, naturally he had to follow my rules. I was the oldest — need I say more.

I remember when he first came to kindergarten and I was in the third grade. I would watch the kindergarten playground to make sure he was OK and if anyone was teasing him. I taught him how to tie his shoes, to sneak candy, to be daring. It seemed like from the moment he learned to walk, I would find him coming into my bed at night. Although, I made sure to take the side of the bed by the wall since he was a mover and I didn’t want to fall off. Christmas morning, I was the one that kept him entertained by grabbing our stockings and giving my parents some extra time to sleep.

I had dreams for our future. I wasn’t surrounded by cousins growing up and decided that we would have kids at the same time and create a larger family for our children. I, of course, would have to approve of whoever he married. Remember, I was the oldest.

Siblings may take different paths and life may separate them, but they will forever be bonded by having begun their journey in the same boat.

A few years ago, my husband and I were about to put on a movie when my mother called. She was talking to my husband, but I could hear her screaming with tears. After he hung up, he looked at me and said, “Jeff was killed.” In one moment, with one phone call, the world tilted.  For everyone else, the world keeps going; but when your brother or sister dies, so does a piece of you. My brain couldn’t rationalize his words. He knew I was going to go visit my brother the next day, therefore he couldn’t be dead.

Grief isn’t reserved for the parents. I have often felt like people asked me how I was doing as an afterthought. What my parents, and all the parents I know who have lost a child, have gone through is the most unimaginable loss. As a mom, I never want that experience. However, I lost my best friend, my past and my future.

Siblings deserve to be asked, “How are you today?” In fact, grief is unique to each person and loss comes in many different forms. When my brother died, I didn’t just lose a brother, I lost an uncle for my children, a caretaker for my aging parents, a part of my team. I lost the person who held the memories of my childhood; a person who could embarrass me by telling my husband stories of the past. I lost a piece of me. And when you lose a piece of yourself, it doesn’t just heal — you learn to adjust without it.

For me, the hardest part is looking at pictures and knowing I have memorized all the pictures there will ever be with him in it. The years of new pictures and memories will be without him. But then my daughter smiles, and while she will never have met her uncle, she carries of piece of him in her smile. In that moment, I have a new memory of my brother.

For all those who have lost a sibling, no matter how young or old, recently or years ago, let me ask, how are you doing?

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