Brotherly Love – How Sibling Loss Shadows the Surviving Child
I often wonder how many ways losing his brother changed our youngest son. Noah was almost nine when he lost his best friend, role model and hero. Traumatic grief at a such a fragile age has to alter who you are. I know it did me and I had decades of experience on him.
My baby is now a senior, surpassing the age his brother was, and in his final chapter as a child. Though we have purposefully tried to not let him grow up in Austin’s shadow, there are many ways he impacted who Noah grew up to be. Most of those are positive.
I know I can be a helicopter mom and in many ways I’m overprotective. In others, I spoil him too much, or give him more freedoms than I would have before. I worry about him constantly, probably more than a parent who has never lost a child does. I question things, fret over a fever, and tell him to “Be safe” more times than he can count every day. Though child loss made me a more anxious mom, it also helped us be spontaneous. We find joy in simple things and have hopefully taught Noah to appreciate every day as the gift it is.
And though he gets told it often, especially by Austin’s friends, who bump into him years later, I try not to tell him how much he looks or reminds us of his brother. Because as much it hugs my heart to see glimmers of Austin in him, Noah is very much a one of a kind kid. I didn’t want him to grow up and follow every footstep of his brother. We pray he’ll find his own path – and so far he’s shown no fear in doing so.
Part of being a senior means writing a lot of essays for scholarships. Several weeks ago he sent me one to edit. It showed me that he looks at his brother’s life as inspiration. And I can tell it motivates him to live a life that would make his brother proud.
My brother is the reason for most of the good qualities in me like my personality and they way I live. I try to be the man my brother would have been when he grew up. He passed away in 2008, when he was 14, and that event also greatly impacted my life. My brother, Austin, taught me a lot of things before he passed away, even still today. He was strongly involved with the community, church, and school since he was old enough to walk and talk. He showed me that it is okay to go a little out of your comfort zone to help someone in need.
Just a small excerpt of what he wrote but it made a big impression on my heart.
Our family began doing random acts of kindness every November, as a way to remember Austin and change the month from being one that reminded of us his death to one that celebrated his life.
Noah grew up sharing kindness with strangers. I can see this is now a part of who he is. He is full of empathy, carrying the burdens of his friends and those he meets. He sees life through the lens of loss, which changes your perspective. As much as I pushed him out of Austin’s shadow, in the end it was his brother’s light that he followed. To have two boys with such giving souls, who strive to make the world a better place is an honor.
I am one proud and very blessed mom.