Sibling relationships are complex. With me and my brothers, we were friends, teammates, competitors and sometimes enemies. My childhood memories are those of camping trips, watching their hockey games, playing in our tree fort and ski trips. My adult memories were filled with Sunday dinners together, board games with lots of laughs, baseball games, sharing in the excitement of weddings and first babies. Sharing all these moments with my brother Bryan was amazing. I never thought that something could break that.
November 28, 2012 – I still remember the knock on the door like yesterday. I instantly knew that something was wrong the moment I saw my younger brother Derek. I knew that whatever it was, my family would never be the same. Once I heard the news that my older brother Bryan was gone I remember thinking about everyone else: how will my parents get through this, it is their worst nightmare to lose a child. How will my sister- in-law support and care for my nieces as a single parent while grieving his loss? It was days later when I finally had time to think, what about me? My brother is gone. This is someone who I had known for 27 years. He was my very first friend.
I believe that sibling grief is often misunderstood by parents, families, friends and sometimes even other siblings. It is often overshadowed by the grief of other family members such as parents who have lost a child, possibly a spouse who has lost their partner, or children who may have lost a parent. It is important to always remember that although the loss is different, it is not more nor less and that there may be others suffering as well. It is important to just be there and support each other when such tragedy occurs.
“How are your parents?” “How is Bryan’s wife and his girls”? These are common questions people would ask, and although I have always appreciated the fact that they genuinely care about our family and want to know, it was not common for someone to say “I am sorry to hear about your brother, how are YOU doing?”
Not only did I lose my older brother, but in a way I also lost many other pieces of my family. Family dynamics have been forever changed. Since we lost Bryan our family gatherings have never been the same. There are no more regular Sunday dinners, and far less games and laughter. We really try and make the most of our time together, but you can tell that we have all been changed deeply by this loss.
I remember there were certain milestones in life that were the some of the hardest for me. One was my 31st birthday. This was when I had officially lived longer than Bryan had. It is hard to know he is missing his daughters growing up, as well as my two children who miss their uncle dearly. It is heartbreaking that he never got a chance to see my younger brother Derek get married or to meet his baby girl, and he missed the chance to watch my littlest brother Jackson grow into the young man he is today.
Family members all grieve differently, and will all have their own response to death. In our family it has always been important that we have open communication with each other and are able to talk about Bryan.
There are a number of ways I cope with the loss of my brother. I find talking about my feelings and talking openly about Bryan helps. I have also found comfort in certain things that make me think of him – for me these have always been blue jays and dragonflies. When I see them I can’t help but think that he is with me.
I also attend the Threads of Life family forums. They are always a great, safe place where I can grieve and cope with this loss openly, with other families, and other siblings that are going through the same thing. Threads of life has helped me heal in so many different ways.
Nikki and Bryan