A weekly newsletter delivering sibling loss specific grief resources, support and validation, coping strategies, sibling loss stories, news from The Broken Pack, and much more- including exclusive content and opportunities for subscribers.

Hello, Reader!

Tomorrow is March 27th. This date may mean nothing to you. For me, for 44 years, it meant waking up to hear my brother wish me a happy birthday. Even as adults, he was often the first person to do so.

A little over a month after he died, I woke up on my birthday under the new restrictions from the pandemic and for the first time ever without Tony’s well-wishes or our long-standing joke of him calling me old and me telling him that he would always be older.

It was devastating and isolating. I even snapped at my loving partner when he asked what I wanted for my birthday, “I just want my brother back.“ This was a gift he obviously could not give me.

Why are birthdays so difficult when our siblings are gone?

While the origins of birthday celebrations and even how they have developed through the years and vary around the world is way too much for this short newsletter, let’s suffice it to say that those who do celebrate birthdays began celebrating in childhood. (Yes, some cultures and religions don’t celebrate birthdays!) Birthdays are one day of year where children and adults can welcome attention, feel special, loved, and celebrated – even if you have to share it with a twin, triplet, parent, or other.

As kids, we thrive on being celebrated but also on having permission to celebrate our siblings. Sure, young siblings may be envious that they don’t receive gifts or attention, but they grow into it and learn that they too, have a day in which they will be celebrated.

Birthdays -as the milestone they are- just mark one more trip around the sun. If you think about it, we aren’t really doing anything except living our day to day. So, the joy in birthdays is that we get to celebrate the person for being them and being alive. I don’t say this to diminish the celebration but to highlight that when our late sibling’s birthdays pass, we realize that they did not do that thing – that thing of living the next day. It’s heartbreaking and sad to think they aren’t alive to feel us celebrate and honor them.

On our birthdays, they can’t be there in the same way they once were to celebrate us. For younger siblings or twins or other multiples, becoming older than your older sibling is a struggle and the loss of “how things were supposed to be.” For older siblings, birthdays are a reminder that the age gap is increasing and that the late sibling will never reach that age.

So, as grieving siblings, birthdays – ours and theirs- highlight the loss of so much. Celebrations, greetings, empty chairs, reservations for one less, absence of calls or cards, and changes in traditions or festivities highlight the void, as well as a change in roles. (More on role changes another day…)

Tips for grieving siblings on birthdays (and other special days or holidays)

If you are not a grieving sibling feel free to read or skip ahead, there are tips for you next!

  • If you feel like celebrating in your usual way, go ahead!
    Have fun and Enjoy!
  • If you don’t want to celebrate, this is okay!
  • You may want to honor your sibling. If you know how, great! If you don’t, here are some ideas but please, don’t feel you have to do any or all of them:

    • Visit the grave site or location of remains.
    • Go to a special place that reminds you of them.
    • Talk to them.
    • Look at pictures.
    • Share stories about them with others. (We have a big announcement soon on how we can help you do this. Stay tuned.)
    • Buy or make yourself a gift that you think they would have given you. (See our instagram to see what I did this year.)
    • Write about them or to them in a journal or a card.
    • Watch home videos – especially from the birthday or holiday.
    • Have their favorite meal (if you can stomach it).
    • Plan some time for some enjoyable activities such as massage, hiking, exercise, watching their favorite movie or show, playing a game, etc.
    • What ideas do you have? E-mail me at contact@thebrokenpack.com and let me know.

Tips for interacting with grieving siblings you know on birthdays (and other special days or holidays)

  • Ask them how they are doing today specifically related to their loss and acknowledging the difficult day.
  • If it is their birthday, not their sibling’s, ask them if they are celebrating.

    • If they say yes, wish them a happy birthday.
    • If not, ask them if they want to acknowledge it or be left alone and then do that.
  • Regardless of if it is their birthday or their siblings or another special day or holiday, keep these in mind:

    • Be specific if you offer something, such as “I know this must be difficult, would you like me to come over or being you a a meal?”
    • Give them permission to say no- explicity. Say, “it’s okay to tell me no.” Grieving people sometimes feel obligated to accept all they are offered even if they don’t want it.
    • Send a card, a text, or e-mail With the aforementioned info in mind.

      • Do not take offense if they cannot respond.
  • Tell them stories or share memories about their sibling If you knew them.

With all of that on mind, for my birthday, please listen to the last episode of our first season of the podcast. It’s part of my story. In the episode, you will learn about Tony, our relationship, and more about The Broken Pack. It will be out tomorrow.

While my partner, still cannot give me the gift of my brother being alive again, he has given me a wonderful gift of being the editor and producer on the podcast. So, publicly I want to extend my gratitude to Brian Dean, a songwriter, editor, producer, partner, and amazing support (even when I push him away in my grief). Mille grazie, Brian!

To catch up on the podcast click below or go to wherever you listen to your podcasts!

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