I grew up in a family with an older sister and two younger brothers. We were pretty typical – playing and fighting our ways through the days. Eventually we all launched into the world as adults. We reconnected occasionally at the parental home as happens in most families. First our father died and then our mother. We were truly on our own and that sentiment is echoed by Katherine Conger, family sociologist at the University of California, Davis. She says that spouses come along later in our lives and parents eventually leave us. Siblings are with us for the whole journey.
I’ve watched other families after the death of the last parent. Sometimes a family grows apart without the common denominator of a parent and family home. In our case we forged stronger links. The connections are powerful as we no longer try to compete or change each other. We focus on what we have in common instead of our differences. This is consistent with findings that the shared early childhood experiences cast a long shadow.
All this can be comforting to parents as they referee endless arguments with their children. Some day those children may come together as good friends. It is also a reminder that it is not too late to reconnect with your own siblings. Conflicts and disagreements can be forgotten (and forgiven) and replaced by the support of those who were there from the beginning.
Have you experienced the death of one or more parents? If so, how has the relationship with your siblings changed?