May 28, 2024

Always a Sibling

By Annie Sklaver Orenstein
Always a Sibling braids stories, data and the author’s own experience with loss to provide a rare guide to mourning a sibling’s death.
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Growing up together means our siblings understand “not just who you are but why you are,” as author Annie Sklaver Orenstein writes. Sometimes the “why” is even a direct response to the siblings themselves; we may follow in an older sibling’s footsteps or rebel against expectations set by their example.

We expect siblings to not only grow up with us but also grow old alongside us; even when relationships are strained or barely existent, siblings share history, and their family experience may most closely mirror one another’s. When a sibling dies early, it can be a devastating, isolating loss. But there aren’t a lot of resources for sibling-specific grief. Orenstein has learned this firsthand in the 13-plus years since her oldest brother’s death in Afghanistan when she was 25.

In Always a Sibling: The Forgotten Mourner’s Guide to Grief, Orenstein addresses this gap in resources by providing tips, related reading and exercises to help readers face their grief after a sibling’s death. A researcher and oral historian, Orenstein puts her skills to use by collecting stories of sibling loss, braiding anecdotes and data with her own experience with grief.

Her plain-spoken, direct style ensures that the research she shares remains relatable. Sometimes she names too many interview subjects and their siblings, leaving the stories at risk of running together. But at their best, the stories help readers feel seen. For example, Orenstein recounts a woman at a party who opens up after hearing that the author is working on this book. The woman quickly warms to the subject and asks, is her experience normal? Or are the feelings she’s faced since her sibling’s death just her own? 

And that’s Always a Sibling’s greatest triumph. There are grief support groups and resources for parents, spouses and kids whose parents have died. But it isn’t often that young (or youngish) adults encounter others who share sibling loss. Orenstein shows her readers that they aren’t alone. Their feelings and reactions aren’t unusual. And their grief matters, too.

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Always a Sibling

Always a Sibling

By Annie Sklaver Orenstein
Hachette Go
ISBN 9780306831492

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