by Lindsey J. Wimmer, MSN, CPNP, CPLC
As I write this, it is National Sibling Day. I have to admit that I had no idea this day existed until Facebook started telling me so, but I love the idea. Siblings are an integral part of our childhood and adulthood. My brother plays a key role in almost every memory I have growing up and in many since I’ve been an adult, too. I’m fortunate that he is one of my best friends and we share a bond that I treasure. We don’t always agree, and my parents often remind me of the many arguments we had when we were younger. But in my darkest days, he’s always been there for me. I value his opinions and advice, and I am very proud of the person he is.
I also know that I’m lucky to have this type of relationship in my life. Not everyone does for a number of reasons. Including my own kids.
My three living children will definitely have memories of each other from their childhood. And I hope they will grow up to have the caring and supportive connection I have with my brother. But it will always be missing something. All of them have an older brother that they will never know.
I’ve often tried to focus on the positives of their brother’s stillbirth in their lives. I like to think that my husband and I are better parents because of what we have been through. We don’t take any moment or milestone for granted. I also hope my children have a healthy perspective on death because it is simply another life transition and they know and love people on that other side.
But it still bothers me that I will never have a photo of all my children together.
So it makes me think more about what a sibling is. Can my living children have a relationship with their older brother that is as meaningful as the ones with their living siblings? It will certainly look different. It won’t involve memories of road trips, tickle fights, long talks about boyfriends and girlfriends, help with homework, holiday dinners, arguments over toys, or vacations. As with so much of our experience after stillbirth, it won’t look anything like what we planned. Despite that, I choose to be intentional about making it beautiful none-the-less.
I hope my kids will feel a connection with their brother when they look at the stars. Or when they have to look inside their conscience for guidance. Or when the sun is shining on them in celebration of their major life moments. I hope they understand the lessons he’s taught us when they encounter others who are grieving or experience their own heartache. I hope they follow their passion and have the opportunity to make a difference with that passion. I hope they will either continue the traditions my husband and I have started to remember Garrett – or create their own! I hope they will always be proud to tell strangers that they have another brother that the world can’t see.
When you peel back the layers of detail and logistics, these are the same concepts that I cherish so much about my relationship with my brother. So it isn’t any different for my kids. It just requires looking at it a little differently.
I still don’t like that the family dinner table is missing someone. But, any of us who have the ability to experience these connections and life lessons from those around us are blessed. It may be from parents, spouses, friends, in-laws, neighbors, and children. Or even siblings.