Dear Barb—Brotherly Loss

Dear Barb:

Recently I lost my younger brother to cancer. He was only thirty years old and just beginning his life. It was the worst experience of my life. He suffered for three years and we all hoped he would beat this terrible disease, but, in the end, he succumbed. We’re trying our best as a family to get on with life, but it’s so hard. Every day I think about my brother and our childhood and all that he will miss. Sometimes I think about the times I was mean to him and feel so awful, I just want one day with him to apologize and make things right. He was such a gentle soul, and always watched out for me. I feel so alone without him by my side. Nothing in my life ever prepared me for losing my brother at such a young age. It just never crossed my mind that I would lose Steve, he was my heart. My whole family is devastated. How do we make sense out of such a terrible tragedy? Feeling sad in Calgary, Melinda.

Hi Melinda:

So sorry for your loss. Losing a sibling is devastating at any age. When a parent loses a child everyone rallies around and supports them, however, often a sibling’s grief is overlooked, and they are left to deal with the loss on their own. Whether you and your sibling were close or not does not make a difference, the loss is real and lifelong. We all have complicated relationships with our siblings, some are loving and caring, others are fraught with jealousy and sibling rivalry. Your role in the family may affect your relationship with your siblings, as older siblings tend to be looked up to and idolized, while younger ones are often teased and not taken seriously and seen as stealing all the attention. No matter the relationship, there are things you can do to learn to live with and manage your grief. Most importantly, forgive yourself for things you may have said or done in the past; these things are all a normal part of the sibling relationship. Also don’t isolate yourself.  Share your grief with your parents and other siblings and offer support to each other. Every person’s pain is unique and real to them. Give yourself time to heal. If you feel you are stuck and not able to move on with your life, seek professional help. A support group would be beneficial not only to you, but to your whole family. Some are geared towards a sibling’s loss and others are for parents who have lost children. As you are working through your grief, find ways to remember your brother. Make a memory book of the life and times you both shared.  Most importantly treasure the time you had together.

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