Losing a Sibling
What Feelings are Normal?
First of all, when dealing with grief, there really is no "normal" per say. It is important to understand that all people deal with tragedy in different ways. All I can do is share some of emotions that I have gone through, which left me asking myself that very same question.
- My initial reaction was shock. Although shock can come in many different forms. When I first heard the news, I fell to the ground crying. However, I witnessed several other people in my family hear the same news and act as if they were listening to something about a fictional character on television. They expressed little to no emotion. My mother simply continued to repeat the words, "David is dead." I knew at the time she wasn't anywhere near comprehending what that really meant.
- I went through a long period of time when all I wanted to do was die too, so I could be with my brother. If you are having serious thoughts of suicide, I strongly advise seeking professional help. My feelings, however, were somewhat different. I wanted to die, but the hurt came from knowing that I couldn't just snap my fingers and make that happen. I knew I could never in good conscience put my parents through the loss of another child. The pain I felt came from realizing that I didn't have a choice in the matter, and that like it or not, I was going to live. Living to me meant learning to cope with this new reality. It was a reality I did not want, did not ask for and most certainly was not ready to accept. I felt like there was a permanent hole in my heart that I knew, even with time, would never fully mend. I now had to learn how to live with the new me. My brother's death forever changed who I am. It is impossible to go back to the carefree person I was before I knew a hurt like this existed.
- I think everyone that loses someone they love at one point or another feels guilty for choosing not to think about them. I feel that way often, because a majority of my day I find myself pushing thoughts of my brother out of my mind. I worry about whether or not this is healthy or if that is what he would want me to do. But then I realize it's all I can do, to survive. I make a reoccurring choice not to think about it, or to tell myself something different. I was concerned about this at first, but was comforted when I found out that I wasn't the only one. A neighbor of mine lost her 17 year old daughter in a car accident during her senior year of high school. The daughter was a twin and the following year her sister went away to college. The mother told me she liked to pretend the other daughter (the one she lost) was just away at school with her sister. Since my brother died in the beginning of May, I often envisioned him traveling around the world or sitting on an island somewhere for the summer. Deep down I knew the truth, but I think it is ok to let yourself not have to live that truth every second of your life. Sometimes we just need a break from the pain.
- Unlike what everyone told me, things did not get easier with time. I am hoping that after the first year the hurt will start to lessen. However, my feelings only got more unbearable several months down the road as opposed to the first few weeks. I think this is a mixture of both the shock wearing off and the feelings of truly missing him setting in. There had been times in the past when I had gone a few weeks without seeing or speaking to my brother, but after that initial time frame had passed, it became very clear that something was wrong. The feelings only intensified the longer I went without contact. As I said before, I am hoping this will get better, but I am not expecting much relief until at least after the first year.
- As much as I dislike the next few emotions I am going to describe, I believe they are normal, therefore you should not beat yourself up for having them. I had many moments of resenting my friends. I could not stand listening to stories of break-ups or problems at work, knowing I would gladly trade any of those (times ten) if it meant I could have my brother back. I grew very angry that this happened to me. I wondered why I was the chosen one when so many others would never have to go through something like this. I was mad that my friends couldn't even begin to grasp how I was feeling, because I knew until this happened to me, I would not have been able to grasp it either. I also grew resentful of other people's relationships with their siblings. I found it difficult to watch them interact because they had something that I no longer did. It was hard for me to be happy during celebrations, such as weddings or baby showers, because all I could think about was how my brother was not going to be a part of any of those things for me. I didn't want to be this type of person, but I think this too is a normal part of grieving.
- Another strange feeling I have all the time is that this is all a bad dream. I am actually waiting to wake up and resume the life I knew, before he was no longer a part of it. Sometimes it still just doesn't feel real. It is like I am stuck in a nightmare that I tell myself can't possibly go on much longer, but to my immense frustration, I never actually wake up.
- The last feeling I would like to address is fear. I now live with a sense of fear that I have never had before. My brother's death made me very aware of how people can be here one second and then be gone the next. I am terrified of losing someone else that I love. I have even had second thoughts about ever having a child of my own, because of the off chance I may have to go through what my parent's are going through right now. Losing my brother also made me more conscious of my own mortality. He was a peer of mine. Therefore, if he could suddenly cease to exist, then the same thing could easily happen to me. Fear can be a very paralyzing emotion. The struggle for me is trying to balance this fear with also getting out there and living my life. As afraid as I am that something like this might happen again, I also know more than ever, that life is short. I want to always remember that, so I can try to live my life without taking a single moment for granted.
My Brother and I in Greece
A Helpful Website
- Adult Sibling Grief - A Support and Resource Community for Surviving Adult Siblings
This site is dedicated to the formation of a support community for those who have suffered the devastating loss of an adult sibling. It offers comfort and support. Sections includes memorials and tributes, message boards,and links to other grief info