Sister Loss


The death of a sister can be a painful loss—a loss that, for some, leaves a lifelong ache.  For singer Patti LaBelle, the death of her two sisters from lung cancer propelled her to lend her fame and influence to the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE initiative to raise awareness about the dangers of the disease for women.

We often hear of a parent who launches a foundation in the name of a deceased child.  The foundation is focused on raising awareness—often on raising funds—that will help the general public learn more about a range of issues from gun violence, to disease, to child molestation.

(My parents, for example, started a fund to annually support a deserving musician  because of my brother’s love of music and his burgeoning skill as a guitarist.)

Less frequently, do we hear of siblings who start a foundation or create a trust fund to raise money/awareness in memory of their sibling.

But that’s what Kate Fitzsimons did after the tragic death of her older sister Nicole who, while in Thailand with her boyfriend, was in a horrific motorcycle accident and died.

Kate and her family created a trust fund that would raise money for things Nicole “loved and was passionate about”, such as sponsoring a ballet student.”

The trust fund eventually grew into the Nicole Fitzsimons Foundation, allowing Nicole’s life to be commemorated in the light it deserves. “We couldn’t let her down without taking on that same kind of fearless attitude and bring something positive from such an unfair tragedy,” Kate said.

Aussie Kate also discovered that many Australian tourists, while visiting other countries, die in motorcycle accidents.  She felt so passionate about the issue that she left her corporate career to devote all of her energies to promote safe travel.

“I’m only one voice but I’m going to make it as loud as I can and try and make it travel as wide and as far as I can,” Kate Said.

Whether famous or not, sisters who lose a sister can elevate their loss to a whole new level by honoring the deceased by volunteering for relevant organizations, establishing a trust fund or a foundation.  Such commitments keep the deceased sibling’s memory alive and provides a way in which the living can make their loss a little bit less painful.



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From Moms to Siblings

We’ve just acknowledged our moms for all that they do/did do for us.  My mother has been dead for almost eight years, but I swear that she showed up last Sunday.  She might have been pointing to her watch and informing me that it was a few minutes past noon and that she hadn’t yet gotten a “Happy Mother’s Day Call” from me.  That wouldn’t surprise me!

But we siblings not only spent time considering the major role our moms played in our lives but also the ways in which they did (or did not) help foster good relationships with our brothers and sisters.  (As an aside, I am sure my mother is still having conniption fits over the frosty connection between my brother and me.  She so much wanted us to get along and remain in each other’s lives. That’s a subject I write about in The Sibling Connection: How Siblings Shape Our Lives.  Check it out at any online book site.)

It should be said that the distance between my brother and me had little, or nothing, to do with my mother and her parenting.  At least, that’s not how I see it.

However, childhood is the time when siblings spend the most time together under the same roof.  Moms (and fathers) are an important factor in how their children get along. Parents can help their children foster close, supportive relationships by:

  • Allow children to settle their quarrels.  Research has shown that the more parents intervene. the more siblings fight.  When parents send their children to separate rooms, for example, they don’t learn how to make deals, to compromise.  Quarreling can be quite healthy.
  • Avoid the tendency to label one child as the “good” kid and another “bad.”  The “bad” child always gets blamed for trouble, while the “good” child gets away with murder.  This sets up a lot of anger for the “bad” child toward both his/her sibling(s) and parents.
  • Honor the different temperaments of children.  Temperamental differences can fuel fighting, particularly if at least one child is highly active or impulsive.  It’s not unusual for parents to have trouble differentiating between who children are and how they behave.  Often it is the difference in temperament that is especially annoying or particularly appealing.  Yet few parents can admit that they may like one child more than another at any given time.
  • Recognize that what affects one child usually affects the others.  And what affects parents is usually passed on to their children, though, most likely in different ways.

So, as we move from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day and then to Sibling’s Day next March, let’s not wait for specific days on the calendar to celebrate family and to do all we can to foster close, supportive, and fun sibling relationships.



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For Grandparents: Books About Brothers and Sisters

For Grandparents: Books About Brothers and Sisters

The relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren is a special one that can enhance the lives of both generations.  Grandparents are the connection to family heritage; conversely, grandchildren represent the future.

Much has been written about this important, often deep connection.  But little has focused on how grandparents can help their grandchildren get along well and how their children to be more effective parents.

Granted, younger parents can resent being told how to raise their children. Grandparents often have to walk a thin line between being too intrusive and not involved enough.

So, what can grandparents do to help their grandchildren enjoy close, supportive relationships?

  • Model healthy relationships with their brothers and sisters – Grandchildren learn by example.  They are keen observers.  If they see a close bond between their grandparents, their great aunts and uncles, they are more likely to want that same closeness with their own siblings. Weekly Sunday morning/evening dinners.  Celebration of holidays and other events.  Vacations.  All of these occasions serve as important family events where current and future generations can share time and learn from one another.
  • Reasons why grandchildren are close or distant – Just like parents, grandparents can help their grandchildren develop positive connections with their siblings.  Books about brothers and sisters often fail to detail how.  For example, it’s important for grandparents not to have favorites, to treat their grandchildren equally, to honor each of their individual personalities.  One grandchild may excel in school; another may be musically or athletically talented.  Each has his/her own talent.  None is better than the other.
  • Things you can do to help curb sibling rivalry – The most effective way to limit sibling rivalry is to allow grandchildren to work out their own problems.  Unless there is physical abuse, grandparents should stay on the sidelines.  Enforcing time outs, for example, is counter productive. Grandchildren can learn the importance of sharing, of compromise, of fighting fair.
  • Encourage children to be the best parents they can be –  Grandparents have the advantage of objectivity; they can see things that parents can not. With some distance, grandparents can serve as touchstones for behavior that foster healthy, close connections between siblings.  They can connect the past to the present and ensure that potential past shortcomings can be avoided and that positive attitudes and relationships continue to grow.



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