Sarah S: My older brother died and I was suddenly an only child

October 5, 2020









I found myself Suddenly Single when my only sibling passed away. My older brother died and I was suddenly an only child.

I stayed home from work that day. I wasn’t feeling good and I had a bad stomach ache. I called in sick because something didn’t feel right and then my mom called me in the early afternoon and she told me that Larry’s dead.

I literally could not comprehend what she was telling me. I thought she was telling me that the bird I had left behind when I got married had died. I couldn’t register it.

And then once I understood what she was saying my stomach literally dropped and I collapsed on the floor. You hear people say the bottom of their world drops out…that was literally what I experienced. It was a complete shock.

We really bonded as adults and it took on a whole new level of our relationship which that’s something I think I’m going to miss more than anything. I didn’t get to see that continue to develop.

We both have a very morbid sense of humor. The funny thing about my brother was, even up to a week before he died, he was able to make jokes about his own death. He was very, you live and then you die.

Music is instrumental for me as far as evoking memory. I’ll hear a song out of nowhere, and it’s like I know he’s there and I know he’s with me and that’s a really beautiful thing because I feel like I can still share a moment with him.

My brother was very outgoing and funny but he was very insecure and I think he was an introvert but he masked that with being outgoing and his sense of humor.

Initially, I think I was in such shock and I had to be strong for my parents. Losing a child is one of the biggest losses anyone can experience so I really wanted to be there for them so I think I suppressed my grief a little bit. I definitely felt it, but I didn’t really open my arms to experiencing that at the moment.

It hits you like a hammer. You forget that they’re not there. I remember for months after he was gone I would have dreams that I had prevented him from what he had done [accidental overdose].

I would wake up excited that I had saved him and then that grief washing over again realizing what had happened. It was really rough.

Physical fitness has always been something for me that helps me cope with that so that was definitely something but eventually just coming to terms with what had happened and not being afraid to engage with those feelings.

My parents definitely took turns dealing with their grief.

I’m ashamed of this now, I was so uncomfortable with my own grief at times and still trying to process that, that their grief made me uncomfortable. I wanted to put a bandaid on it. I was there for them but in a lot of ways, I wasn’t as much there for them as I would have liked because I was grieving too. They had lost a child but I’d lost a sibling.

You’ve got three players in a formerly four-member unit and the three of us are kind of lost at sea floundering lost in our own grief…trying to help each other but also trying to figure out how to stay afloat ourselves.

I have a wonderful relationship with my parents. I think the hard part and being Suddenly Single as far as a child is I know that the responsibility of my parents is squarely on my shoulders and only my shoulders now. I don’t have a sibling to help decide as my parents get older to help support them, not financially necessarily, but emotionally. If something happens to them it’s all on me.

Its been difficult as I get older to realize I don’t have that sibling to share that with.

I’m childless by choice, they always thought Larry will have kids and then when he died they were grieving the not having grandkids thing.

There’s so many dynamics involved when you lose a sibling that I think most people don’t think of right off the bat. You lose your friend. My brother was my original friend as my sibling and when you lose that there’s so many parts of your life that you lose. When you lose your sibling there’s so many parts of your life that you lose.

You lose your friend, you lose the person that you know is always going to rib you and pick on you but if anybody else does it they’ll defend you. They’ll stand up for you. It’s okay if they tease you but nobody else can.

I think any family when you lose a sibling or a member you lose that sparkly little person and all the jokes, and helping mom and dad, and ribbing me on my athletics, and he had names for my husband that I cannot repeat in polite society. It’s like how do you put a name to the things you took for granted because that person is always in your life.

You just want to reach for the phone even 15-years later and ask, what do you think about this?

My brother had flaws, we all do, but he was such a wise intelligent human being and I miss his perspective on every little thing.

Some of the best jokes and memories I have his fingerprint on it. I love that. He’s never really gone then. Every day I remember him and am reminded of him.

You’re reminded what a gift life is and how delicate and fragile it is in the sense that nothing’s guaranteed. I think it brought us closer in that way.

My parents and I have always had a wonderful relationship. We’re a very close-knit family. That’s a blessing, but I think that also made this loss that much more difficult when you lose that. We have such a small family. I don’t have a lot of cousins or relatives. We’re just as close as we ever were but I think we are much more appreciative and we understand.

We never forget to say I love you. We never not give a hug. We just know…we just kind of cling to each other because we know this is what we have.

I used to be very insecure. I used to be a huge worrier. I used to really doubt my worth and interestingly when Larry died it was this shift of wow, life is short and I do not have time to waste. I cannot live my life as a fearful person.

I grabbed life by the horns. I don’t worry about the little things anymore. I am so much more appreciative of everything nowadays. I feel like his death almost gave me a second lease on life because I can now live for the both of us.

I feel his presence. I know he’s there and it was just this dynamic shift in me and in my life. It’s horrible that something like that had to happen, but I feel like if nothing else that’s the gift I can at least take away from this.

It’s really hard when you lose anybody that you love to go, someday this is going to mean something. You don’t think about that in the moment, but it unfurls and it evolves and you grow.

I don’t know that it gets better, but it just gets, and you start to see the light in places that maybe you weren’t seeing it before.

Hold their memory close. Remember the good times, laugh at the hard times, try to see the world through their eyes.

Being able to talk about them, share about them…keeps their memory alive. You’re going to be sad, it’s going to be horrible but don’t forget who they are. As the pain allows, continue to let their memory live on.

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