Two friends of mine had brothers die suddenly yesterday. That kind of loss is incomprehensible to me, so much so that I can’t even bear to write about it. Losing a child has to be the most intolerable, but since I don’t have children, losing my sister has always been one of my worst fears.
Not that you can quantify grief, but I’ve had friends who, tragically, have already lost a sibling and a spouse and some of them said losing the sibling was worse because they had a life-long history of shared memories with the brother or sister that was now gone.
I have friends who go for long periods without speaking to their siblings because they’re caught up in life’s day-to-day busy-ness or they aren’t that close, but I’ve never understood some of my friends who stop talking to a brother or sister because of some spat that may seem serious at the time but really isn’t and then months pass and it has become the new normal not to talk. I’m more the type who ends each phone call with my family and friends with “I love you” because it’s true and, quite frankly, just in case something horrible happens before we talk again, I’d like those to be the last words they hear from me.
I searched for a group that deals with grief counseling and couldn’t find one that dealt specifically with losing a sibling, but I already knew about The Compassionate Friends, which supports bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents after a child, at any age, dies.
The Compassionate Friends have the following credo, “Siblings Walking Together” on their website about losing a brother or sister:
We are the surviving siblings of The Compassionate Friends. We are brought together by the deaths of our brothers and sisters. Open your hearts to us, but have patience with us. Sometimes we will need the support of our friends. At other times we need our families to be there. Sometimes we must walk alone, taking our memories with us, continuing to become the individuals we want to be. We cannot be our dead brother or sister; however, a special part of them lives on with us. When our brothers and sisters died, our lives changed. We are living a life very different from what we envisioned, and we feel the responsibility to be strong even when we feel weak. Yet we can go on because we understand better than many others the value of family and the precious gift of life. Our goal is not to be the forgotten mourners that we sometimes are, but to walk together to face our tomorrows as surviving siblings of The Compassionate Friends.
My sister and I already chatted today because we just wanted to hear each other’s voices after the bad news and she’s going to call me again after she watches last night’s “Downton Abbey.” I can’t wait.
R.I.P. Bob and Paul
Jan. 7: The Compassionate Friends https://www.compassionatefriends.org/home.aspx