Sibling Relationships as our Parents Fade

We all know that death is a part of life, but as a middle boomer, I have been learning first hand about a few of the many emotional issues our parents demise can bring up among siblings. I believe a few of my personal struggles may reflect what other boomers are experiencing.

No, I am not talking about who gets what here, although that can certainly create major animosity between brothers and sisters as our parents pass away. What I am talking about here is experiencing the death of relationships with our siblings as our parents fade, and how these stressors may bring up previous traumas from our past.

Suddenly, after 40 or 50 years of growing apart, siblings may be forced to come together to decide quality of life and death issues for our parents. Differences between siblings can be countless after decades of living separate lives. Brothers and sisters may remain worlds apart. For example, my brother and sister could not possibly be more different.

Here are a few major sibling differences:

Very different health statuses and therefore view of quality of life issues

Differences in standards of living (homeless versus very well-off) & financial need

Differences in ethics and personal style

Very different personal relationships with our parents

Differences in the way we treat each other in difficult emotional times

When we add in parents who may be experiencing varying degrees of decreased mental capacity or dementia, we find an emotionally charged situation which often brings up old differences and new personality conflicts as family dynamics finally get settled. Because family members may be the ones whom we have relied on for emotional support in the past, they can be primary sources of relationship stress. It may take some time and work to understand all the stressors involved if siblings should choose to work through this process as our parents’ health fails. Otherwise this may be the best time to resolve decades of anger and frustration by finally ending a toxic relationship with your sister or brother.

Postscript: I just saw a film that dealt with this issue well, “June Again” a new Australian film.