A Sibling’s Grief

A Sibling’s Grief


A few days ago my youngest child brought home the annual Limavady High School magazine. I took it to bed with me that night to start reading through it. One of the first places I looked was in the creative writing section. Initially, I read an endearing piece written by one of my daughter’s classmates about becoming a ‘big sister’. Then I discovered that my daughter had also written a piece entitled “My Most Memorable Experience”.

As I began to read it I discovered that she had written about her experience of losing her sister. Although I didn’t read anything that I hadn’t already known, it was still very emotional to see her experience of the death of her sister written down in black and white. However, I also felt very proud of her for being able to give her grief a voice and to do so very articulately. She wrote it in the previous school year so she would have been thirteen or at most fourteen when she wrote it.

I have obtained her consent to publish her piece of writing on here, with the aim of increasing awareness of sibling grief. Several adults who lost a sibling when they were growing up, have told me that they felt that the focus was usually on their parents’ grief and that they often felt as if their enormous loss was overlooked.

My Most Memorable Experience

If you have lost someone very important to you, then you already know how it feels. And if you haven’t, you cannot possibly imagine it” – A Series of Unfortunate Events

On the 19th April 2013, my sister was diagnosed with a rare and life-threatening form of bone marrow failure known as Myelodysplasia. Cancer. She needed a bone marrow transplant urgently. We all had to get our blood tested and thankfully my brother was a match. Leah and my mum had to spend 14 weeks in Bristol Children’s Hospital. That meant for three months I was alone with my dad and brother. My older sister was away at university. I pretty much had no one. My dad just about learnt how to tie my hair up and my brother was always on his computer so I was pretty much alone.

Thankfully after the three months of them being in Bristol and me and my dad occasionally visiting when we could, the transplant was successful in curing her Myelodysplasia. I was ecstatic. I was so happy, finally, life would be normal again. We could move into our new house. It would soon be Christmas and we would become a full family again.

Christmas had passed and everything seemed normal. But it wasn’t……On the 28th December, she became unexpectedly unwell and was then admitted to ICU in Belfast City Hospital. She had only just come home and now she’d been taken away from me again.

Me, my dad and my brother had to drive up to Belfast in the middle of the night Wednesday 15th January 2014. When we got there it was eerily silent. I remember my mum taking us up to Leah’s room. I remember her lying there looking lifeless. She couldn’t move, she couldn’t speak, she couldn’t even open her eyes. She was just lying there. I remember crying for hours. Crying until my head was sore. Crying for hours. But I don’t remember it stopping. The last things I remember from that night were kissing her hair-free head and then sleeping on my aunt’s floor, dreading the morning.

The next day was by far the worst of my life. All my family were gathered in the NI Children’s Hospice. It was silent again. No one was ready. No one was prepared to lose her. They had to use two ambulances to transport her from the hospital to the hospice. They moved her into a room there, all of us were gathered around her whilst her favourite playlist of songs serenaded us in the background. I remember clutching onto her hand, while I sat on my aunt’s knee, mentally begging her to hold on. I finally lost that hope and broke down. The tears were streaming down my face. My aunt had to take me to another room because I was having a panic attack. My head was sore. My chest was tight. I couldn’t breathe.

I remember the hospice staff switching off the life support.

I remember hearing the continuous beeping stop.

I remember the moment she died.

The atmosphere was quiet, so quiet that you could nearly hear all of our hearts shattering at once. I would try and describe the feeling to you but I can’t put in words how horrendous it actually was. I would never wish that feeling upon anyone.

The wake was the next few days. They laid her white coffin open on her bed. She was wearing the dress that she had worn to her formal (which was only a few weeks before she relapsed) and some rainbow, fluffy socks that I picked out. We all put something into her coffin, one of the items being her favourite teddy, Ducky. I’d say there were over a hundred people who visited the house in total. The funeral was on Sunday but the only thing I recall is my uncles and cousins carrying her coffin.

The reality is you will grieve forever. You won’t get over the loss of someone you love. You will learn to live with it. You will heal and rebuild yourself. You will be whole again. But you will never be the same again, nor should you want to be. I know I’ve changed. I know I’ll never be the same again but I can’t tell if it’s for the better or for the worse.

Yes, I am angry. Angry because she was so young. I was so young. Sixteen-year-olds aren’t supposed to die. Ten-year-olds shouldn’t have to feel that pain. But I’ve also become stronger……..Sometimes I look up at the night sky and there’s always one star that catches my eye. It always seems the brightest. And I know she’s there, watching over me. img_0313

16 thoughts on “A Sibling’s Grief

  1. So, so beautifully written…she’s a gifted writer, and carries so much wisdom. I’ve read many stories of loss, and this is one of the very best, moving me to tears…
    I’m so sorry for your loss, and for Leah’s siblings as well.
    Thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So well written, Miriam has a great gift for writing. This was so emotional to read, thank you for sharing. Leah was such a beautiful girl, inside and out. Rhea said only last week at the conference that she misses Leah. Lifting you all in prayer xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Denise, and thank you to Rhea too. I actually felt very emotional that morning when I was heading into the conference, as Leah loved to express her faith creatively and would have enjoyed it so much. However, everyone was so friendly and welcoming that I coped fine.


  3. Thank you for sharing. Yes it’s true- that kind of grief is unimaginable to those of us who have been spared it this far but it still moves me to tears. I’m so glad this sad and pain-filled world, this life we have here is not the end. Our hope lies ahead in a future where every tear shall be wiped away.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That was very moving and heartbreaking. Your daughter writes very eloquently, especially for someone so young. I’m very sorry for your loss. I volunteer at an organization that supports children who have lost a parent or sibling and I am continuously moved by the children and their stories (I recently wrote a blog about it.) There definitely needs to be more awareness of and services for childhood bereavement.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. An incredible piece of writing. I’m not sure how exactly I ended up here. My daughter was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma at the beginning of November and we have been learning to live as parents of a child who had cancer. That hasn’t been easy.

    Thankfully she is responding well but I worry about how ruthless this illness can be.

    I worry not only for my daughter, and for my wife and I, but for her siblings who are all very close in age. Sometimes it’s difficult to shut off the negative thoughts.

    Something no family style ever have to go through. This piece of writing moved me. So sorry for your family’s loss.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for visiting and for commenting. I’m so sorry to hear about what you’re all going through right now.
      I hope and pray that your daughter makes a good recovery and that you all receive the emotional support that you will need to get through this.


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