Friday, January 8, 2010

Sibling Rivalry, Sarah

Sibling Rivalry
by Sarah

I suppose it is the way of human nature. All too often we don’t remember the good, only the bad.
I don’t remember my brother’s arrival into the world. I don’t recall visiting him or my mother in hospital.
I do however remember his death.
I was seven years old. My two other brothers and I were sitting at a large table in the drawing room when we heard Rory cry out. He was only four weeks old. I remember finishing my drawing, and slipping down from the big table to go in and see him. My dad, who must have been home from work that lunchtime, followed me.

I remember him pushing me into the doorway between Rory’s room and my parent’s room as he raced past me to snatch up my tiny brother and place him down on my parent’s waterbed.

I remember cowering in the doorway as he yelled for my mother to call an ambulance. I remember her hysterical screams, his attempts to resuscitate a baby who he knew was dead from his first glance, and my slow dawning realisation that the world I knew was gone.

Between the doorway to Rory’s room and my parent’s room, my sure footing of my place in the universe had been snatched away.

I was lucky in many ways. Though I should add, when I say lucky, it’s a relative term. Because my father was the town doctor, my brother’s tiny body was returned to us after autopsy. They had taken great care of him. Treated him tenderly. I remember a tiny white lifeless body that we cuddled. Shed endless tears over. We sought solace in my mother’s loving arms, not knowing our tears made her milk flow over and over again, for a baby who no longer needed feeding.

The whole town attended his funeral. All desperate to comfort us, to find something useful to say. There was nothing. They forgot to get someone to do the offertory so my family and I, tears streaming, blindly made our way up to the altar, stumbling whilst carrying the bread and wine. Past his tiny, white coffin. Past my sleeping brother who would never wake.

The way we treat bereaved families has changed so much. I often think of the agony my mother endured afterwards. There was no Internet world where she could connect with other babyloss mamas. There wasn’t much in the way of counselling for her or my siblings. Even recently, when a flyer arrived home from my son’s school saying they offered counselling for bereaved families if needed, I suffered a sharp pang of jealousy. I wish I’d been offered some.

Our childhood, that of my brothers and myself changed after that. My mother suffered periods of long and profound depression that echoed into and throughout my teenage years.  I struggled with his loss and the all too early realisation that object permanency was a cruel fallacy.

My parents have been tireless fundraisers for and champions of SIDS awareness. They have supported and cared for other bereaved, bewildered parents who have encountered the same loss. Over the years, I have often wondered if their chosen professions, that of a doctor and a nurse, added to the anguish they felt and still, I am sure, sometimes feel. I guess it’s not something that can be measured, and really it doesn’t make any difference. He is still gone.

I suspect many wonder why I am involved in the baby loss communities when I haven’t lost a child at full term or to SIDS. Maybe it’s because I can offer comfort in a way I simply couldn’t for my mother growing up. But mainly, because my brother’s short life taught me to look outside myself. My brother taught me that there isn’t a quantifiable value to be placed on a life. What has become Rory’s Garden is a small way of honouring him. The man he would have become. I often think of the beauty in the fact that his sibling, Richard who was born after Rory’s died works with me in his garden.

I think my parents like that. Rory didn’t get to grow up. But his memory has flourished.


about the writer.
Sarah lost her sibling Rory to SIDS when he was only 4 weeks old. Here, she writes about the impact his loss had on her and her family. Sarah runs Rory's Garden  with her brother providing photo tributes to bereaved families. She also co-founded "Whispered Support" with Carly Dudley. Her personal blog can be found here.


  1. I am moved to tears. This is a tragic, yet beautiful, story, and I feel honored that you shared it. Thank you for everything you do. xoxo

  2. I often consider the impact my daughters death has had on my four living children.
    Reading this has me crying,but maybe understanding a little more.Thank you.

  3. Holy dooley. Sarah, you keep amazing me, every time I read something I am sure that's as good as it gets, until the next one and then you supercede it. My heart broke of your mothers milk coming down because of you guys giving her comfort. Plus the fact you got to cuddle your brother. I cannot imagine. Love to you.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing that incredibly moving story. We very rarely hear about the impact of the death (or, in my case, lifelong illness preceding death) of a sibling, and it is something that shapes your entire life.
    You are so generous to devote time to helping bereaved parents, and I wish you every possible joy with your beautiful children.

  5. Sarah, a lovely post. I only have one brother and i cant imagine ever losing him and the impact that would have on our family. I think the legacy you and Richard are creating in honor of Rory is just amazing and wonderful. The work you both do provides so much comfort and joy to other people - there are no words to express it. I am sure all the baby loss mamas are grateful to have you part of our community.. its people like You, Richard, Carly and many more that help the rest of the community heal!

  6. Beautiful and heartbreaking Sarah. The image of your family walking past Rory's coffin. So painful.

    I often wonder what how my surviving daughter will feel about losing her big sister. Thank you for giving me an insight as to how it feels to lose a sibling.

    You and Richard are following in the footsteps of your parents by supporting and caring for so many bereaved parents. I know that I have cried and cried whilst looking through the flowers in Rory's Garden but I always leave with a sense of peace. I'll always remember him. xo

  7. Oh honey - what a moving story xxx

  8. Simply beautiful, Sarah. Thank you for sharing your life and Rory with us.

  9. Just tears, Sarah, and utter amazement at such raw and vivid words. Thank you for sharing your story.

  10. I'm so glad that you shared this, Sarah. It moved me that you remembered that time so vividly. You and your brother do wonderful work to honor Rory.

  11. What an unbelievably beautiful told yet tragic story.

  12. I'm so glad you've shared the story of your brother Rory's short life and tragic death and your grief journey as a sibling. We have four children grieving the death of their full-term, stillborn baby brother last May so I'm always wondering how my grief impacts them and how they're doing. Thank you for sharing and the work you do for bereaved families and, in particular, mothers. xo

  13. I wonder if my daughter will write this type of story many years from now. How losing her baby sister made her life veer off course, and yet made her life story so uniquely hers.

    Thank you for sharing this glimpse into the beauty that came from Rory's too short time.

  14. This brought a tear to my eye Sarah. Such a moving story, and so beautifully written. It's an incredible tribute.


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