The Atlanta Chapter Siblings Web Site

7:30 PM on the second Tuesday of every month.
First Christian Church of Atlanta, 4532 LaVista Road, Tucker, GA

Sibling Group - same time, ages 12 and up

  Rachel Woodruff  404-216-4251

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Siblings Walking Together
(Formerly the Sibling Credo)

We are the surviving siblings of The Compassionate Friends.
We are brought together by the deaths of our brothers and sisters.
Open your hearts to us, but have patience with us.
Sometimes we will need the support of our friends.
At other times we need our families to be there.
Sometimes we must walk alone, taking our memories with us,
continuing to become the individuals we want to be.
We cannot be our dead brother or sister;
however, a special part of them lives on with us.
When our brothers and sisters died, our lives changed.
We are living a life very different from what we envisioned,
and we feel the responsibility to be strong even when we feel weak.
Yet we can go on because we understand better than many others
the value of family and the precious gift of life.
Our goal is not to be the forgotten mourners that we sometimes are,
but to walk together to face our tomorrows as surviving siblings of
The Compassionate Friends.

©The Compassionate Friends

Please Don't Overlook Me

Tom was 16

Comes the Dawn

The Day the Music Died

A Grief All My Own

A Sibling's Story

Tom Was 16

-by Tom Schoeneck, brother of Mary from
Hope for Bereaved: Understanding, Coping and Growing through Grief

Please Don't Overlook Me!

I know my size is smaller
my hands are littler my legs are shorter,
but my HEART can hurt just like yours.

You're an adult...
Please don't overlook me!

I know my vocabulary isn't the greatest
my attention span lacks longevity
my logic sometimes seems irrational,
But my MIND can question death just like yours can.

You're an adult...
Please don't overlook me!

I know my needs seem less important
my feelings seem less controlled
my actions are hard to understand.
But my BODY needs a hug just like yours does.

You're older.
Please don't overlook me!

I know tears are hard to show
fears are difficult to face,
death means not coming back,
But my SOUL searches for reassurance just like yours does.

And you're hurting too...
Please don't overlook me!
TCF Sibling Page Carson City, NV

My brother Chad gave me this poem the Christmas before he died. I will cherish it always.

Comes the Dawn

After awhile you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn't mean leaving
And that company doesn't mean serenity.
You begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts,
That Presents aren't promises.
And you begin to accept defeats with the
Grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,
With your head up and your eyes open.
You learn to build all your roads on today,
Because tomorrow's ground is too
Uncertain for plans, and futures have a
Way of falling down in midflight.
After awhile you learn that even sunshine
Burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own gardens and decorate
Your own soul instead of waiting for someone
to bring you flowers.
You learn that you really can endure...
That you really are strong...
That you really do have worth...
And you learn and you learn...

We love you,

Chad and Pete
Christmas 1995


On February 3, 1959, parents would lose children, siblings would lose brothers and grandchildren would die. This was the day a plane crash took the lives of singers J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper), 28, Buddy Holly, 22 and Ritchie Valens, 17. Since all three were so prominent at the time, February 3, 1959, became known as "The Day The Music Died."

At the time of his death Ritchie Valens was a young man with superstar potential who, even though was still in his first year as a recording artist, had already made a name for himself in the music industry.

Growing up music would become a large part of my twin brother Alan’s life. His interest in “The Wizard of Oz” would lead to an admiration of Judy Garland and in time Liza Minelli. He had seen many of Liza’s concerts often sending her mail-grams of well wishes much to my mother’s disproval. It was her fear that he would get arrested for harassment. We would travel often to other concerts as well including Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Diana Ross, Whitney Houston, Kenny G and even Yanni.

Alan's interest in music and the arts began in high school with the artistic productions. After graduation from Temple University he would become entrenched in the Philadelphia cultural scene. Much of his free time was spent volunteering for arts, dance and theatre organizations. His name would be listed in the credits of many artistic productions. He, like Ritchie Valens, was just starting to realize his dreams. Then came June 25, 1992. Alan had died of an AIDS-related brain tumor that had started not more then two months earlier. This was-for me-the day the music died.

Don McLean immortalized the February 1959 tragedy with his 1972 hit “American Pie”, a song that took Alan and I years to understand and memorize. I would mark my personal tragedy by constantly changing the radio station. So much that I thought I would break the buttons. A break-up song would remind me too much of my loss. While in a friend’s car I had him turn off the radio rather then risk crying.

Then one day a few years later, upon leaving the cemetery, on the radio I heard Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All”. Alan and I had recorded an awful rendition at a Hershey, PA amusement park recording studio. We agreed that no one else would hear the dreadful outcome. I switched stations twice only to hear the song two more times. It was my reflection that Alan was telling me to enjoy the music once again. To take pleasure in life and to do what we enjoyed doing together. I hear Alan’s voice saying the words inscribed on Ritchie Valens grave "Come On, Let's Go."

Daniel Yoffee, TCF Board of Directors Sibling Representative. Reprinted from the summer edition 2003 of We Need Not Walk Alone – The national magazine of The Compassionate Friends.

A Grief All My Own
By Carrie Pueschel

I was a freshman at Point Loma Nazarene College when my brother, Carl, died. The news reached me hours after he had been found at the base of the radio tower. Jim, a faculty member and family friend, stuck his head inside the door of my chemistry class as I waited for class to begin and motioned me outside. I was pleasantly surprised to see him, but my smile faded as I noticed the somber expression on his face. He took my hands in his as he told me of my brother’s death. I searched his face desperately waiting for his expression to break in to a grin as people will often do before they let you in on the joke, but there would be no punch line. I drew back instinctively and as I pulled away, Jim tightened his grip. I began shouting “No!” over and over until I became aware of myself once again and sunk into his hug. When I started to breathe more regularly Jim walked back into the classroom to get my backpack. I began to grow physically and emotionally numb as he led me down the stairs to his van. He asked me if I had a friend who could wait with me until I could get to the airport. I nodded indicating I did. He drove over to her classroom and I carefully looked in to see if I could find her. Fortunately she saw me and dismissed herself.

When I got to the dorm, the RA (resident assistant) for my unit was already waiting for me. She and my friend, Heather, followed me to my room after an exchange of somber glances between them. Without much thought as to what I needed I packed a suitcase hoping I had everything I needed since I would be going home for the week. I was nearly finished packing when one of my roommates came into the room. She heard the announcement in chapel and came to see how I was handling the news. I was suddenly aware of how closely I was being watched. It was as though I had taken up residence in a fishbowl. The girls sat silently watching me, not quite knowing what else to do. I could feel their unease at not knowing what to say; afraid of saying something that would cause me to have some sort of nervous breakdown right in front of them. I desperately wanted to be alone. It was as though I was a hostess at a boring party needing to entertain my guests, but I was afraid to act anything but somber. Would they think Carl meant nothing to me if I tried to strike up meaningless conversation? I felt an emptiness growing in the pit of my stomach. I wanted to crawl in bed and curl up against the wall. Yet, all I could do was sit uncomfortably while they watched. I was the elephant in the room. My brother had just died, yet no one could state the obvious: something horrible had just happened. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had experienced for the first time a reaction that was to become all to familiar to me.

After a draining week at home, I was unprepared to face my friends, roommates, and acquaintances at school. I could feel the tension as I walked into my unit. The girls watched cautiously as if waiting to see if it would be OK to approach me. I wanted to tell them about the week and about all of the painful memories my hometown triggered of my brother. Actually, I needed to talk about it, yet I knew it was better to keep it to myself. I don’t know how to explain it, but people react very strangely when they hear about someone’s death. I couldn’t count the frequency with which I was purposefully avoided or had someone quickly change the subject if I happened to mention my brother. I soon discovered a positive reply when asked how I was doing avoided many uncomfortable situations. Most of the time people merely asked out of a sense of obligation, not concern. Few wanted to hear how my stomach turned when I walked up to his casket and saw the bruises, which ran down alongside his head and neck beneath the make up the mortician applied in an attempt to conceal them. Nor did they want to hear how my heart skipped a beat when I thought I caught a glimpse of Carl riding his skateboard down the street, only to have it break one more time when I realized it couldn’t have been him. They didn’t even want to hear how I found comfort in memories of him such as the time we were just little kids and had been sent to our rooms because somehow we had managed to irritate Dad. Unwilling to accept our punishment and allow our fun to come to an end we recorded ourselves giggling and set it behind our dad’s chair knowing we were sure to get a reaction. We laughed hysterically when our dad heard the recording and sprang from his chair to catch us out of our rooms. I found I was truly alone in my grief aside from what I could share with my parents. I try not to get angry when I think of how others reacted to me in my grief. I, myself, reacted toward others the same way before I lost my brother. Yet, it was difficult to be forced to create a mask for the comfort of others when comfort was what I sought. Each day I “put on a happy face” and tried my best to appear together.

A few weeks after I returned to school the other girls in the unit no longer tolerated my grief. I could sense their irritation when I failed to get out of bed as they prepared for class. No longer was it necessary to try to comfort me. They had accepted my brother’s death and were done feeling bad. It would not have been a great shock to learn they had forgotten I had a brother. I was forced to stuff my grief for the remainder of the semester. I cried only when I was sure I was alone and knew no one would be back for a while. I carefully watched what I said as not to let anything about my brother slip into conversation. I found even sharing a good memory of Carl could set off a series of uncomfortable events. The mere mention of his name would cause my listeners to freeze. Would I break down immediately and fall to pieces at his memory? I didn’t know at the time it would have been OK. No one had to understand my emotions, nor did anyone have to deal with them. I was the only one able and willing to carry myself through my grief. I had to realize

I could only do what I could as I struggled with my grief and had to remind myself I would be able to do more as time passed and the impact of his death gradually became less painful. It was necessary for me to understand if I never got over his death I would also be all right as the death of a sibling is not something anyone ever truly gets over. Everyone deals with grief differently. If I were to only allow myself to grieve as much as other’s around me felt comfortable I would be quite miserable today.

It has been four years since his death and I continue to miss him. I still watch what I say to others, but I don’t worry so much about their reaction. I know what to expect from someone when they hear about Carl for the first time and have found ways to keep the evil of discomfort for all parties at a minimum. When Carl died I struggled with what my answer would be when someone asked if I had a sibling. I didn’t know how to answer. Would I say I did have a brother or would I say I had a brother? Neither answer seemed quite correct. Today I can answer the question. Carl was and always will be my brother. My memories of him are mine to share if I wish. My grief is also mine to deal with, as I need to.

It is not open to the criticism of others.

A Sibling’s Story
~written by Robin Johnston Eggers
In Memory of her Brother Matt Johnston
March 8, 1967 – October 11, 1993

It has been seven years since my brother Matt’s accident.  Seven years since my dad took that horrendous call.  Little did he know I was listening on the other end.  You know the drill, “we regret to inform you that your son was killed in a car accident tonight at 1:00 AM.  His was the only car involved.  I’m so sorry, is there anything we can do?”  Yeah call somebody else, let somebody else deal with this nightmare.

I was 21 years old at the time and living at home with my parents, Matt was 26.  Matt and my sister Julie are / were twins.  I still stumble with that one.  Are we or were we siblings?  I usually say, when I’m asked, that I have a brother and a sister who are twins.  Why ruin that person’s day.

Once the initial shock wore off I remember thinking what if he died alone.  How horrible was that to think that there in his final moments it was dark, cold, and scary and he was dying.  It was not until later after I read the autopsy report that I found out he was rendered brain dead on impact.  Does anyone else find it odd that I took comfort in that?  The funeral was also a terrible blur although I distinctly remember his hands.  They were cut and bruised.

The months following also ran together.  I flunked out of college that semester, the first time ever, but re-enrolled the following.  I slept a lot.  On the average day I was in bed by 6:00 PM.  You know me I had to get my 14 hours of sleep in a night.  I didn’t pray though.  I think I felt too betrayed by God, by faith, or my lack there of.  I really wasn’t able to talk about it at all, which worried my family quite a bit. I felt like I couldn’t trouble my parents with my problems because it could not possibly be worse than the burden they were forced to bear.  Besides, everyone who did talk about it started crying, and I felt I was much too busy to have a nervous breakdown at the time.  I was amazed at the number of people who tried to give me a quick fix.  Here, read this or write in that.  I had just lost my brother what were they thinking?  Some things just aren’t meant to be fixed.

Everywhere I went and everyone I saw reminded me of Matt.  At Christmas time I found myself shopping for his underwear and Timberland shoes.  When I heard something funny or had news to share I immediately called my sister and then out of habit picked up the phone to call Matt as well.  What a cruel sick joke that was.  Everyone I came in contact with asked about him or asked about how his twin sister was doing.  Oh don’t mind me, “I was his sister too” I felt like saying.

 (I felt selfish at the time for even thinking that)  The weird thing is I was mad at people for asking because I didn’t want to be reminded and I was mad at people for not asking because I felt they had forgotten him.  No one could do anything right.  So what did I do, I went back to bed of course.

My friends were great initially, but after a while they ran out of things to say and the mood just felt awkward.  I needed an escape and a change of scenery.  So I applied for a job in Yellowstone National Park for the summer.  I had gone away to college for a year and hated it and came home to go to a commuter college.  I think my family thought Yellowstone would also be like college and I would be home in a week.  To everyone’s surprise, including my own, I found my safe haven.  Yellowstone was a place where I could meet people and the great thing was they only knew what I told them.  What a great place!  I was no longer the grieving sister.  I was just one of 2000 other college students working, living and having the time of their life in a three million acre National Park.

After Yellowstone I came home to finish college and continue on with life.  I am often asked for advice by other people on what I did to get through that time and what miracle cure worked for me.  If there is anything I learned it is that grief is very unique and that I can not even pretend to know what another sibling goes through during that time of loss.  What I do wish is that someone had been honest with me and said “you know what the next year or maybe even two years is going to stink.  It is going to be awful, but it can’t stink forever.  Sometime down the road the sun will shine again.”  I don’t recommend that everyone pack their bags and head West.  I suggest they do what ever it takes to keep getting out of bed in the morning and getting through each and every day.

I read somewhere that “losing a loved one is like walking through the valley of the shadow of death and surviving”.  I found comfort in that.  For some the valley is short and narrow for others it is wide and long.  I think I am through my valley now.  I pray again and I always include Matt in my prayers.  I’m 30 years old now, 4 years older than my big brother and I think I am probably wiser too, which is weirder still.  His 92’ Mazda Protégé seems to be disappearing from the roadways and the smell in his clothes has faded.  My anger and sarcasm have subsided as well, but his sweet memory remains.  I still miss his hands (the way they used to be), he had the best hands.


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