It’s National Siblings Day, and while most of you are sharing (hopefully embarrassing) photos of your brother or sister, there is a group that may not be joining in that celebration, and my youngest son is one of them. For quite some time now,I have known that HopeMovement was to be more than just the journaling of a grieving mother, so I’ve prayed that the Lord send someone else, and of course He has. The following are not my words, but the words of a sister, Marcie Massa, mourning the loss of her little brother. This is for siblings, yes, but it is also for parents, like myself, who have surviving children. We all need to hear what she has to say. Thank you, Marcie for sharing your story and your voice for the siblings left behind.
Grief through the eyes of a sibling left behind.
Time is something we all take for granted. We always think there will be a next time when we part ways with those we love. May 4th of 2019, I’d learn the hard way that’s not always the case.
I would lose my younger brother Tony to an overdose after 3 years in recovery. Life as we know it would never be the same. Then again life while they struggled in active addiction was never the same either. Which is why I’m writing this letter.
My brother Tony’s story is one like many. We came from a good home growing up, filled with love and faith. But as we all know addiction doesn’t discriminate. In my brothers 20’s the addiction cycle would start. Little did we know, it would go on to impact our family for the rest of our lives.
Addiction is very much like a tornado as it touches down: it affects everything in its path, leaving wreckage all around you. It’s like watching a stranger sneak up, take their hand from ours and whisk them away. All while parents are trying to grab their children back the siblings are following right behind.
The siblings. Sometimes known as the silent sufferers. We were equally as impacted by the “before” and the “after.”
Shortly after losing my brother I knew I needed to navigate my way through the world of grief support. I quickly came to realize there is minimal support for the siblings. Almost next to zero outlets for our grief to be heard. Many of the larger platform groups are mostly parents. And although I have been blessed beyond belief to meet the most amazing angel moms, I find myself continually lessening my loss next to a parent as it wasn’t my child that passed. I want to preface that no one has ever made me feel that way…but trust me it’s how we feel. A thought that has tugs at my heart so often is behind these beautiful faces we see lost daily to this epidemic are triple the amount of left behind siblings.
I want to speak for the siblings. I am one. I see their cries & have heard their hearts being shared. Although different experiences for all, most share extremely common feelings.
Our grief can be overshadowed. People will ask us how our parents are. Forgetting along the way, we are in great mourning too.
Many suffer in guilt. Due to the addiction, our relationship wasn’t ideally what we’d prayed it would be and we can’t forgive ourselves. Could we have done more? We carry the same guilt our parents do.
Many have changes in their relationships with their parents while their sibling was in active addiction and after they passed.
We’ve not only lost our sibling; but a piece of our parents will forever be lost too.
At times pieces of our memories were stolen or put on hold during active addiction. Simple gatherings & holidays suffered. The elephant in the room lurked and hurt us too.
Our connections to our past & future have been taken away.
We suffer in silence, we constantly try to be strong for our parents to get them through their grief all while we suffer on our own.
Most surrounding states do not have sibling loss support groups, if there are grief groups, it's mostly parents attending.
I’ve spent the last decade walking through life with a shovel trying to fill the holes my brother left behind. This is me. The sibling.
In the hours proceeding my brother's passing I jumped in to “fix it mode”. As the oldest child & only daughter I felt I needed to do everything imaginable to make sure my parents were surviving their loss, as many children do. Calling the funeral home, helping make all the horrifying decisions, creating the picture boards, calling family & friends, writing & delivering his eulogy. I saw the tears my parents cried through the years he struggled, and I heard the screams in the middle of the night during the first nights we lost him. This is me. The sibling.
I speak for many when I say my parents are my “go to” when life goes wrong. When I hurt, my parents have always been there to make things better. Where does one “go to” when their greatest loss is also their parents? This is where the journey of silent suffering starts.
I was very fortunate early on in my grief that my parents saw how much I was struggling. They recognized I was always trying to carry them. My father grabbed my hand, looked me in the eyes and said the words I so desperately needed to hear. “You are not responsible for getting your mother & I through this loss. We want to be here for you too.” I cried my eyes out in that moment. My weights were lifted.
While each story we tell are all unique in their own circumstances, our common ground remains the same… so many suffer silently yet scream out loud in their hearts. Missing not only our sibling but missing our parents in so many ways it’s hard to convey into words. Missing what should have been, what could have been. The disease didn’t just come after our siblings to attack them, it attacked us too. This is us. The siblings.
While I speak for the siblings left behind, please know it comes from a place of love. Just as the stigma kept us all in silence during the addiction, grief has a funny way of keeping us in silence too. This grieving sister just wanted to shed some light on how much it’s affected our journey’s too & most importantly how much we need you. If your children aren't expressing their grief, trust me they are hurting.
Our grief will always be here to stay and that’s ok, but we must continue to encourage one another to be still and know that if you look hard enough there is still beauty around you. The sun will always find a way to filter itself back into the cracks. And while our advocacy is amazing, we must be sure to draw a line where it’s healthy and all consuming too. Just as our angels were our somebody’s…. YOU are someone’s somebody too! Someone in your life is needing you right at this very moment to be present.
We grieve yet we live, it’s finding the balance in the two.