I spent an enjoyable couple of Saturdays in February taking a deep dive into the world of sibling relationships and boy are they complex. Much more so than I think many of us realised at the beginning of the first day! Vital though, in my opinion, to a deeper understanding of how the relationships we have with our siblings shape who we are and ultimately how this might impact how we grieve the loss of a brother or sister. In this post I want to talk about unknown siblings.
Val Parker (psychotherapist, group analyst, supervisor, trainer and writer) who held the training believes that finding ‘lost’ siblings i.e. siblings who have died through miscarriage, stillbirth or before we were born is helpful. It adds a piece or pieces to the jigsaw of our life and also perhaps adds an additional element to our sibling loss journey.
Most of the social media posts I come across are from siblings who have had a brother or sister die either in adulthood or certainly where they had a ‘known’ relationship with their sibling. I’ve also talked previously about sibling loss being disenfranchised, i.e. not acknowledged by society. Siblings lost to miscarriage, stillbirth or before we were born fall into this category, even more so I might argue.
An unknown piece of your jigsaw?
Sometimes families are open about these losses. In others they become a family secret. A grief which isn’t talked about. Sometimes parents never tell their children. Perhaps parents feel they are protecting their living children from upset. Alternatively, it could be too painful for parents to explore their own experience of loss and so it becomes buried.
However, it is a piece of your jigsaw and it may be something which bereaved siblings overlook when thinking about their journey with loss. Do unknown sibling losses in our past affect future sibling grief? I don’t have the answers……..yet, but I am curious.
A piece of my jigsaw
In my family, my mum had a miscarriage following the births of myself and my middle sister and before the birth of my youngest sister.
Before the course I would have said that the loss never affected me. At least at a conscious level it didn’t, but has it? Certainly had it not happened I wouldn’t have my lovely youngest sister in my life for which I’m very thankful. Since the course, it has left me with some new questions about whether it might have affected me on some level and decades later in grieving for my sister. At what stage of the pregnancy did the miscarriage happen? Was I told my mum was pregnant? If so, had I started to imagine what this sibling might have been like? Was I excited? Was I jealous? How did I make sense of and react to being told that my mum had had a miscarriage? How did me being 7 or 8 impact my understanding?
The answers to these questions could contain gold in making greater sense of sibling relationships and sibling grief.
Are you curious about possible unknown siblings?
I hope this post has given you some food for thought. Perhaps it has sparked a curiosity within you. Perhaps you are aware of your unknown siblings, perhaps not. Maybe you have a desire to find out more. Does it feel too difficult to raise this with your family? Perhaps it could open up a conversation that is healing for you all. Perhaps it doesn’t feel that you can go there. If it doesn’t feel possible, please don’t beat yourself up. Families are complex and as much as we might like to have these conversations, it isn’t always possible.
However, if it is something you wish to talk about, perhaps counselling could help or talking to a good friend, someone you feel can help you to express your thoughts and feelings around this.
If this is something you’ve never thought about before and have something you’d like to share, please get in touch with me.
Donna @ Siblings Matter