Losing a Sibling


When you suffer the untimely death of a sibling, nothing makes sense anymore. Your peer, the witness to your entire life, the one you confided in, competed with, argued, and made up with, has exited the mortal stage.

I believe I'm pretty expert at this process. As the baby of 5 kids, I kind of knew all along I'd be the last one standing, but sometimes they fall way too soon. 

My brother in the rear right in this photo, Mr. Perfect, All American, handsome, intelligent, talented, and outdoorsy, 5 years my senior and my protector and teacher growing up, passed on at the tender age of 43.

My sister on the right in the photo (getting mother's hairbrush wrath), passed at the age of 50.

The sister in the middle with the blond hair was just diagnosed with Stage 4 laryngeal cancer at 66.

Of course, no one fills that precious spot, but we can look to their lives to learn more about our own life at this point. 

What did you learn NOT to do from them? Learned not to smoke cigarettes? Learned not to keep marrying to fill a void? 

And, what did you learn TO do? To put family first? To travel the world and experience life? 

When I lost my brother Scott, I asked myself, "what did Scott represent? What would he want me to take from his way of approaching life? What example would he want to set?" Scott loved climbing the highest mountains, scuba diving, camping, rafting, riding around in his jeep. I played John Denver music, adored John Wayne, and was the proudest American.

I made a mental note to get a jeep, take off on crazy adventures, and never miss an election. 

My sister Tina was the Lillemor "little mother" in our family. She wanted grandkids and to bake and care for everyone, fussing and fretting over their well being. 

I realized that being the grandmother I never had (our grandparents were born in the 1800s!), would be living it for her. As well, when her kids had kids, I would represent my sister's spot in the family. 

When a sibling is in the process of dying, the grief is palpable. Getting past it to be there for your sibling is key. Every day let him/her know how they influenced you, how you are carrying on the stories, the hobbies, the attitude, beliefs.... Celebrate his/her life with retelling the stories. 

You were not there during their birth to the human stage and you cannot be there during the next birth to the afterlife. Mostly what they need to know in the end is that they were loved, that they made a difference here, and that they will be greeted by family for a great welcoming as they move on. 

There are plenty of symbolic things you an do when you lose a sibling. You can get a domain in their name and  put their life up online to remain there, a kind of memorial. You can plant a tree. You can donate to the cause that is helping the disease condition they are suffering. You can vow to watch after the family and stay connected with their children. You can help them make a video or type up their life from an audio recording. You can finish and publish their book they never got done. You can help them reconnect with anyone that they want to apologize to or any loose ends that bother them. 

My sister has been an amazing "hillybilly farmer" as she refers to herself. I continue on the veggie garden experience and every time I see the Chesapeake, she is what I think of, as it was both of our favorite place in the entire world. 

These times make you consider your own demise. I made a vow to be cremated but to have the ashes separated so that everyone who loved me has some ashes to go deposit some place we made a great memory. I figure then in a strange way, I am always in those greatest moments in time. 

We all have to go through losses. No one is getting out of mortal existence alive. No one replaces a sibling, but there are friends and mentors who can often fill a void and in doing that, you benefit but so do they. There is nothing like being a friend treated like a sibling to make another feel less alone in the world. It is mutually beneficial.  

And, one thing you learn on losing a sibling is that you must never go a day without letting loved ones know how much you love them and to resolve differences. You don't get a second chance to resolve things. You don't know when you will lose someone, but you can know that all was said and done. 



1968 - Kathy (left), me, Tina, Scott (and our cat "Chomper")