Siblings: The Forgotten Mourners

Leading heart charity launches new resource for young people who have suddenly lost a sibling

Bereavement experts from the charity, Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) are today [Wednesday 28 November 2012] unveiling a unique new book for the brothers and sisters of young people who have tragically lost their lives to sudden cardiac death.

The book, “Sibling Grief” * – which has been compiled by CRY’s Chief Executive and Founder, Alison Cox MBE, who was a bereavement counsellor, features 10 personal ‘essays’ from men and women who recount their experience of suddenly losing a sibling. It will be officially launched at a high profile event at the House of Commons, which all authors will be attending.

All of those involved in the new booklet were young (some even teenagers) when their brother or sister died. Some have used this opportunity to talk openly about how their feelings were not understood by the many friends, family members and visitors who surrounded their parents at the time of the tragedy. Others talk of how they were unable to express their own grief for fear of further upsetting their already devastated parents.

In some cases, the authors even say they felt pushed away by their mums and dads, whose own grief had simply overwhelmed them. But all were unanimous that life would never be the same again.

Every week in the UK, 12 young (that is, aged 35 and under) people die suddenly from a previously undiagnosed heart condition. 80% of these young people have no signs or symptoms and so the only way to detect a potentially sinister cardiac abnormality is by having a CRY screening test.

Alison Cox, says; “I have supported bereaved families for over 17 years and the response we have had has generally been from parents, particularly from mums. However, siblings need to be given a “voice” too so that their own emotions can be heard and better understood. Their grief is very different from their parents but just as real and as raw.”

*The development of CRY’s Bereavement Support Programme was initially funded by a 3 year grant funded by the Department of Health

CRY regularly holds specialist Bereavement Support Days across the UK for families who have been affected by young sudden cardiac death – although those seeking support have usually been the parents, particularly mums.

Last year (November 2011) CRY held its first Siblings Bereavement Support Day. This event gave all those who attended the chance to share their tragedy with others who immediately understood their feelings and the fact that many of them had kept these emotions buried for so long.

Alison adds; “This booklet was inspired by the depth of feeling I witnessed on that day, 12 months ago, and the need for those brothers and sisters who came to let other affected siblings know that they are not alone.”

Since 1995, CRY has received many hundreds of calls from families wanting to speak to others who have suffered similar tragedies. CRY has found that in many cases, no matter how much professional support is offered (either medical or therapeutic), sometimes just talking to someone who has been through a similar experience, can provide the best help.

CRY offers telephone support with volunteers who have suffered the sudden cardiac death of a child, sibling or partner and received two years of counselling training, as well as holding regional and national bereavement support events across the UK.

Sian Regan, from South Wales, who has written one of the chapters of the new booklet says; “It was a difficult process putting into words how I felt when my brother Gareth died. Looking back, those days, weeks and months that followed were a blur. But, it was also an important and cathartic process and I just hope that this book will reach out to anyone else who is going through the same devastating experience that we did. If it can help just one person who has lost a sibling understand that their feelings are not unusual and are not “wrong” then it will have been worth it.”

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For more information or to set up an interview with any of the authors featured in the new booklet, please call Jo Hudson or Heather Churchouse in the CRY Press Office on 020 7112 4905 / 0770 948 7959

Visit: www.c-r-y-org.uk for further information or www.crysiblinggrief.org to download a copy of the “Sibling Grief” Booklet