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The Bravery of the Brokenhearted – A Big Brothers Perspective on Grief From the Loss of a Sibling with Sanfilippo Syndrome with Noah Siedman

Once Upon A Gene

The Bravery of the Brokenhearted – A Big Brothers Perspective on Grief From the Loss of a Sibling with Sanfilippo Syndrome with Noah Siedman

December 23, 2021

The Bravery of the Brokenhearted – A Big Brothers Perspective on Grief From the Loss of a Sibling with Sanfilippo Syndrome with Noah Siedman

ONCE UPON A GENE – EPISODE 114

The Bravery of the Brokenhearted – A Big Brothers Perspective on Grief From the Loss of a Sibling with Sanfilippo Syndrome with Noah Siedman

Noah Siedman was a big brother to Ben who had Sanfilippo Syndrome, a devastating disease that leads to childhood dementia and premature death. He joins me to talk about his sibling experience and dealing with grief.

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS

As a sibling under potential pressure to not be a burden, do you still carry those feelings even after Ben’s passing?

It’s hard as a sibling to see everything your parents are facing that’s out of your control. As a sibling, there’s a need to be on top of your own care and your own emotions. There were no casual complaints in my family growing up. It was either a disaster or business as usual. Filling in that middle space where you have a bad day and want to talk about it didn’t exist. We’ve had to work on that as a family because that’s not how we’ve functioned. 

What coping mechanisms help you to write and talk about your experience?

I came to the realization that I was going to be emotionally vulnerable, which is uncomfortable. Knowing I would have to talk about my experience and brother, I had to accept it, put it out front, and get really good at talking about it comfortably. I got more comfortable talking about the progression of my brother’s disease and my feelings around him, and I used it as a shield. 

What would you say to the young person who is living the same life you were living and what questions should people ask that person?

The first thing that I would say, and maybe the best thing to ask that person, is about their roles. When do you feel like a sibling? When do you feel like a caregiver? When do you feel like you’re an advocate? When do you feel like you are just you? I got stuck in trying to be a lot of those things at once, where the easiest role to ignore was being just me. But everything you push down morphs into something worse. Frustration turns into resentment, fear turns into trepidation, sadness becomes melancholy. 

What are the misconceptions people have about death?

The biggest problem with grief is that no amount of experience is applicable. It defies the ability to be prepared for it or to use your past to help you cope. I don’t think grief gets easier, I think you get better at it. Those that try to give advice to people that are grieving are hanging on to the idea that that time will heal. It’s not that your grief goes away, it’s that you get better at it.

How has your relationship with your sister changed?

Ben’s death brought us closer and we do a good job of communicating despite handling things differently. There’s no right or wrong way to navigate life with a sibling who has a genetic disorder, so we don’t judge each other and we’re honest with each other. 

As a parent, how do you help siblings to have a better experience?

Abandon the idea that you owe siblings normalcy. My parents put a lot of effort into delivering normal childhood experiences. Instead, put that energy into helping your children articulate what they want. More important than chasing normal is helping siblings decide what’s important to them and how to pursue it.

LINKS & RESOURCES MENTIONED

ONCE UPON A GENE – Episode 109 – A Rare Collection – What I Know For Sure with Noah Siedman, Grayson Skibington and Nash Hawkins

https://effieparks.com/podcast/episode-109-what-i-know-for-sure

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