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The Hidden Pain of Silent Siblings

black and white image of mirrored faces looking away from each other

Today is my sister’s birthday. No kidding. If you’ve been following along, you’ll realize that we go bam - bam - bam in this family. Three weeks in a row, three birthdays back to back to back. Three generations.

I can’t write much about today, though. Except to say that this day is hard: a few years ago, my younger sister stopped talking to me and to everyone else in our family. This is a topic rarely talked about inside of family circles and barely whispered to outsiders.

There was an argument. There was anger. There was confusion. And there was a lot of frustration.

And there was – there still IS – sadness.

I gave her space. And she took the mile. And some.

Looking back, I can see how the years when we didn’t really talk in our family hurt us all. And then when we became adults there was so much left unsaid that perhaps it was just too much to continue to not bring up.

We missed too many opportunities to talk. We didn’t take time to have the conversations that are easy and silly and informational and that just touch base to ensure safe travels into deeper seas. We were busy with our own families, our own storms. We had all the right excuses for all the wrong reasons.

I’d like to think that I’ve learned. I’ve learned not to keep so many secrets. I’ve learned to talk, to share, to listen. And I’ve learned that I will never finish learning how to talk, to share, to listen.

I’ve also learned along the way that many families have a sibling on one level (which translates to the aunt/uncle/cousin/grandparent/whohaveyou on another) who has chosen to live apart and to be separated from the family in every way. And many – myself included – keep this silent sibling a somehow shameful secret.

So here I am – an advocate of talking and I have people in my own family who I cannot talk to. But I’ve also learned from this. I’ve learned to grasp at the moments with my own girls, to talk about the hard, harder and hardest stuff – to not let big things go unspoken. To be there. Here. Present. To not always wait for a better time to talk. It rarely exists.

And I am learning: no shame.

Over the years, I have tried to reconnect with my sister. A phone call. An email. A visit. A handwritten card. I worry that I let too much time lapse. I worry that I pushed her; I worry that I didn’t push her enough. She continues to stay in her world and I fervently hope that she is not alone there. I have to believe that she is where she wants to be. I have to trust that sometimes friends can provide better support than family. I hope she has the answers and peace of mind that she needs.

It has been hard to lose my sister to silence. I miss her.

And, today because it is her day after all, I wish her happy and happier days filled with the people she enjoys talking and being with.

 

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