Dear Sibling, The One Left Behind

Dear Sibling, there is so much you need to know. In our deepest sorrow, we don't realize that you cannot read our minds, you cannot know our pain. We know you feel lost, alone and abandoned. You saw us change instantly at the loss of one of you and you waited for the 'us' you knew so well to return. We didn't. You needed us, but for once in your life, we were not there for you. We could not comfort you or tell you it would be alright. You are in pain and think that no one sees that, that no one cares. After the loss of your sibling, you found yourself living with strangers. A dark cloud has descended and taken away your happy, normal life. No one sees you, they only see the one who is lost. You feel guilty for the feelings you are going through. You feel you have no right to feel that way when so many are hurting, especially your parents. Anger, guilt, sorrow, loneliness make you clam up, isolates you from everyone else, even your friends for how can they understand when they have not lived this? They tell you to move on, get over it, think of your parents, don't be so selfish and self-centered.

Let me tell you about us first. When a parent loses a child, no matter the age or reason, we feel we failed in some way or another to protect that child, to be there for that child, to keep them from harm. In that way, our feeling of failure flows over onto the children still living. After all, we could not protect one of you, what makes us think we can protect any of you? The sudden fear that lodges in our hearts at the moment of loss tells us that we will lose you too. It could happen, it has happened and oh the fear, the fear freezes us. The hurt, the loss, the agony freezes us. We are so full up with violent emotions, so full. This is as new to us as it is to you. We are clawing our way back to a world without one of you and have to learn to live, in a different way, all over again. We know you are struggling too, yet at this time in our lives, we are unable to help you much. It is no ones fault, again, it is the nature of child loss. Believe it or not, you are not loved less, if anything, you are loved even more, we just do not have the ability yet to show you that. We hardly have the ability to breath.

Communication becomes a thing of the past. You, the sibling, hide your feelings. You are afraid that you will make your parents cry if you show how you feel, after all, they cry all the time. You feel guilty for wanting their attention and become to resent them and yourself. You start thinking that you matter so much less then the one who is gone, maybe they wish it had been you? You don't understand why the one who is gone can be everything and you are nothing, you, the one still here. As a mother who lost her son, I want to tell you, we see you. We love you. We need time to adjust in a world without the other and still connect with you. We are as lost as you are. When a parent loses a child, they become like a child themselves. The world is a shock, a dark place of loss. We need you to be there for us, and oh how unfair that is to reverse those roles.

Three months after my son died, my daughter said to me, "Mom, I feel like I didn't just lose Tim, but I lost you too." It hurt my heart so deeply to know I was letting her down. I also knew she was absolutely right. The me she knew was gone. All the conversations were about Tim, the loss of Tim, life without Tim. I can't say that it did not continue, but I tried to pull back from making everything about my loss. The sorrow and grief stayed, of course it did, but I did not want to lose my daughter too. She is my firstborn, my world, but she did not know how I felt. She realizes that she can never understand my pain unless she has gone there too. I never want her to know this sorrow. We try to keep communication open but sometimes we stumble. That is normal. One just keeps going. But it takes all of us, not just one or the other.

So Dear Sibling, please know that though we seem distant, we see you. We know you hurt and we love you so much. Death changes us all so stop waiting for the old us to come back and start getting to know the new us. Try hard to keep communication open. So important. Talk about your loss, they do not cry because you are hurting them, they cry because that is grief, they will cry. Stop feeling guilty that you are here and your sibling is not. Thank you that you are here. How much dimmer would the world be without you in it? So much. In time, and no one knows what that time is, your parents will learn to handle their grief. You are more important to them then they have the ability to tell you. 'Forever Mom.'

About the Author

 My son, Tim, passed on January 5th 2014 at the age of 34. He chose to end his life. So many things happened to bring him to that point. Believe it or not, I understand why. No matter how our child died, that is the keyword 'our child.' I wish you all gentle days and nights as you walk your path. Barbara, 'Forever Mom.'

I'm Grieving, Now What?