“How Are Your Parents Doing?”: Siblings’ Unacknowledged Grief and Loss (Guest Blog)

By Dr. Gloria Horsley, an internationally known grief expert and author, and her daughter Dr. Heidi Horsley. Gloria is the founder of the Open to Hope foundation.

Losing a sibling is one of the worst things that can ever happen, especially if the sibling dies before his or her time. Siblings travel together throughout life, and have a shared history. The sibling relationship is the longest we will ever have. Most of us, if we are lucky, will share 80%-100% of our lifespans with our siblings. My daughters, Heidi, Rebecca and Heather will tell you that the death in an automobile crash of their brother, Scott, at age 17 was the worst thing that could have happened. They felt their loss was minimized by their world. Although my husband and I did worry about our three grieving teenage daughters, friends and extended family mainly focused on how my husband and I were doing. We received bushel baskets of sympathy cards, whereas my daughters received only a handful.

Sibling Messages

In the weeks and months after Scott’s death my daughters were often asked, "How are your parents doing?" or they were given the instruction to "Be strong for your parents". How can a grieving sibling possibly be strong when their brother or sister has died? This kind of loss turns one’s world upside down, and puts everything into question. It is a double loss; you lose not only your sibling but also the emotional availability of your parents. Siblings can feel a wide range of emotions including anger at their deceased sibling for disrupting their lives.

My daughters not only grieved Scott’s loss, but also grieved for the future they would never have. One where they would have attended each other’s graduations and weddings, raised their children together and cared for aging parents. The death of a sibling is just wrong, especially when it is a sudden death. There is no chance to say goodbye, no chance to say you are sorry for the arguments you had. Siblings do hear the words “take care of your parents” and are frankly concerned about their parents as many have never heard their dad cry so loudly or seen their mom in such an emotionally vulnerable position.

Surviving Sibling Loss

Sibling loss is painful no matter how or when your sibling died. You can take actions to remember your sibling, and help others acknowledge your loss. If you are a bereaved sibling, below are some suggestions;

  • Simply recognize and acknowledge the magnitude of your sibling loss.
  • During the holidays decorate a wreath with some of your sibling’s favorite things.
  • Remember your sibling’s birthday with a cake and/or a song.
  • Cook your sibling’s favorite dish and share it with friends and family.
  • Light a candle in your sibling’s memory.
  • Recount memories and funny stories about growing-up with your sibling, and pass these stories down to younger family members and friends.

Remember it is not how your sibling died but how they lived and impacted your life that is important.  If you have lost hope please lean on ours until you have found your own.  Things will get better. 



“You Always Have A Place” Victim Tribute Recipe Book

We are excited to share with you a new project that honors victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes, as well as underage drinking victims: the “You Always Have A Place” Victim Tribute Recipe Book.

For so many families, getting together for a meal—whether it’s a simple Sunday breakfast or a grand Thanksgiving feast—is a special time to enjoy each other’s company. But for families that have lost someone to drunk or drugged driving or underage drinking, there’s always someone missing at the table.

That’s why we’ve put together this recipe book—so we can remember our loved ones by sharing some of the dishes that always put a smile on their face.

We hope it serves as a special way to honor those we’ve lost, and make sure they’re not forgotten.  And we hope it serves as a reminder of all the work we have left to do to get to a day when there are no more victims.

Until then, we will continue serving the people impacted by this terrible crime … who will always have a place at MADD. And we will continue honoring the memories of those taken from us … who will always have a place in our hearts.

If you’d like to submit a recipe in honor of a victim or survivor for the next edition, click here and send it to us by July 22.

New MADD Victim Services PSA

For MADD’s 35th anniversary year, we are proud to release our new PSA focused on MADD Victim Services—the first new PSA about MADD Victim Services in 10 years.

Victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes, as well as their loved ones, often feel lost and hopeless after a crash. While friends and family members are often available in the days immediately surrounding the tragedy, finding a support system that lasts a lifetime can be difficult. That is why MADD Victim Services are so vital to those who have been impacted by this violent crime.

At MADD, victims always have a place. And always will. We provide supportive services at no charge to the victim and their loved ones, 24-hours a day, 365-days a year, as long as they need us. With this PSA, we hope to reach even more victims and survivors to spread the word that MADD is here for them.

We would like to give a special thanks to the three families from North Texas who took part in the PSA: Gwendolyn and Louis Edwards whose son Louis Jarrod was killed in a drunk driving crash in November of 2010; Joshua Tisdale, a young boy whose mother Kelly Tisdale was killed as a pedestrian in a drugged driving crash in September 2011; Hermelinda and Juan Martinez whose sister Maria Vazquez was killed by a drunk driver on Father’s Day in 2012.

The families are followed by MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church, whose son Dustin was killed by a drunk and drugged driver in July 2004. The bond they wish they never had in common—drunk and drugged driving tragedies that were 100% preventable. Tragedies that led them to find comfort and help… and eventually hope… at MADD.

Please watch and share this new PSA to help spread the word to the hundreds of thousands injured every year, and to the loved ones of the more than 10,000 people killed, to let them know that they always have a place at MADD.

Portraits for Healing

We are pleased to share with you a new opportunity for victims and survivors to honor loved ones killed or injured in drunk and drugged driving crashes: the Portraits for Healing program.

With a minimum $50 donation that goes directly to MADD Victim Services, victims and survivors will receive a hand-sketched portrait of their loved one created by Artist Bill Small of Danville, CA, a MADD volunteer generously donating his time and talents to provide this healing opportunity. All donations received through the Portraits for Healing program will help provide free support services to those affected by these preventable crimes.

Bill Small has agreed to donate 200 portraits a year to MADD, so order your portrait now at to be one of this year’s recipients.

You'll Always Have a Place

Tonight at our National Conference, we gathered together to remember and celebrate the lives of those who have been impacted by drunk and drugged driving and underage drinking. Seven of MADD’s Presidents spoke and shared inspirational poems, while the Arlington Children’s Chorus provided the music.

We also released our new Victim Service PSA, which is the first new PSA for MADD Victim Services in over 10 years.

Please watch and share this new PSA to help victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes know that they’ll always have a place at MADD.

A special thanks to the families who helped make this new PSA possible:

  • Gwendolyn and Louis Edwards for honoring their son Louis Jarrod who was tragically killed in a drunk driving crash in November of 2010.
  • June Monkhouse and her grandson Joshua Tisdale for honoring Kelly Tisdale, a daughter and a mother, who was tragically killed as a pedestrian in a drugged driving crash in September 2011.
  • Hermelinda and Juan Martinez for sharing Hermelinda’s sister Maria Vazquez’s story with us. Maria was killed by a drunk driver on Father’s Day in 2012.

We also released the “You Always Have A Place Victim Tribute Recipe Book” as another way to honor victims and survivors of drunk or drugged driving and underage drinking.  We invited bereaved survivors to submit their loved one’s favorite recipe and injured survivors to submit their favorite recipe. You can download this free recipe book here.

MADD has always been and will always be a place for help. If you or a loved one has been impacted by a drunk driving crash, please call our Help Line at 877.MADD.HELP or email to connect with a MADD Victim Advocate in your area.

Victims and survivors are not alone. They will always have a place at MADD.

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