On days like this, I sit outside in my backyard and beg nature to soothe my wounded soul. Yet another incident will drive a wedge even further between me and my brother.
Addiction has ravaged our family to the point that clear boundaries are necessary for safety and emotional survival. And stubborn, vengeful pride constructs the walls that will not allow help or reason or the peaceful get-togethers of times past.
I have seen it over the years from all kinds of families, the heartache that happens when adult siblings stop speaking. It all commonly falls apart when a loved one passes away. The gloves come off, the peace-keeping stops, and forgiveness seems to be an impossible task for all involved. Little hurts added up along the way seem to turn into sticks of dynamite that fire on all cylinders when held to the flame.
It’s easy to judge from the outside looking in, but quite another task when it happens in your own family.
How did it get here? When did it all start? Did we all do things we’re not proud of?
There is much to be said for standing your ground and speaking up for what you believe to be right or wrong, but the emotional fallout from losing a sibling in adulthood comes with a long, slow, drawn-out cost.
You share a household and an important background with your siblings, which gives them great insight into who you are. It lends to a great understanding of what makes someone tick but also arms them with the worst possible things to do or say to throw daggers straight into your heart.
You can pray for God to change them, you can pray to God to change you, you can do everything in your power to protect the parents and children caught in the middle, but no matter how your pain comes out as your chosen reaction, in the end, it just plain hurts to lose that relationship. In many cases, it turns into a petty, pride-filled, tug-of-war rejection game.
You try to shy away from it, but can’t help but remember the innocent times growing up before you knew anything about complicated adult relationships. You remember when things were less stressful, you remember popsicles next to blue plastic pools in the yard, riding bikes, rides at the state fair, skating parties, and trips to Grandma’s.
You existed together and shared things you didn’t share with anyone else.
You had the same jumping-off point.
You grew up within the same walls but developed your own views and ways of life, which can turn out to be vastly different. Your own experiences guided you to the place you’re in now and set the tone for how you raise your own family. It’s understandable that different views might clash, and no one likes to be judged on those points.
Though I’ve drawn my own crystal-clear boundaries, I find myself mourning an incredible loss. How profound it must be when one gets to their deathbed, what are their biggest regrets? It rarely has to do with money or fame or a job, but all of the time that could have been spent with family.
I get to see my nephews in tag-team visiting scenarios and staggered birthday gift dropoff visits, but it is not the same. Won’t we wish we could get this time back? How do we work toward healing without feeling like doormats?
My son overheard a conversation about all this recently, and I explained it to him with the first thing that came to mind. With siblings, it’s a lot like when you’re little and you might fight with your brother over a toy.
Without question, you always love each other at your core, but sometimes you get mad at each other and need to separate for a while.
I wish I had advice or an easy solution for healing, but I don’t. All I can do right now is refuse to participate in toxic energy that continues to fuel the fire, hold my ground on what I’ll allow my children to see, and still make an effort toward the innocent loved ones who surround the situation. It’s not an easy balance.
But maybe the first step is taking the time to sit alone outside with God to try and heal the soul. Taking the time to set aside pride long enough to mourn and acknowledge the heartache and family fallout that takes place when adult siblings stop speaking to each other.