It was an early Tuesday morning when I couldn’t sleep and found your story in Buzzfeed. It was the first headline I saw: “Siblings Taking Care of Siblings”. It was such a great coincidence and exactly what I needed because in just 2 days, I was to find out whether or not I would be granted legal custody of my 2 younger brothers.
My mother passed away last month from a heart attack. It was unexpected. It was also unfair because I was in El Salvador conducting research for my PhD program. The vast distance and the countries in between us couldn’t begin to measure how great my pain was to be so far away from my mother. Luckily, I was able to return the day after the news and be with my brothers, Jacob (15) and Daniel (9). The moment I returned I was immediately confronted with seemingly awkward and surreal responsibilities like finding a funeral home, filling out insurance forms, putting my PhD program to the side, and the insecurities of caring for my brothers financially. How am I going to feed the boys? How am I going to afford living in NY?
I was tired, I was stressed, and I was confused. Why did my mom die so young? She was only 39 years old. She was the adult in our small family. She was the caretaker. How am I going to raise my brothers?
Support in Time of Need
My family was small but strong. It was just my grandmother, my mom, my brothers and I. A resilient unit of 5 and it was all I ever needed. My grandmother died 3 years ago from her long battle with cancer. And now my mother is gone. I was left with uncertainty and the all too familiar pain of loss. But my brothers and I were not alone. Many people reached out to us and supported us in many ways. Although I didn’t know some of my mother’s friends, I was able to see how much they truly loved her. They offered their most sincere condolences. They shared all of their wondrous memories and how great of a friend and woman my mother was. My own friends from different walks of life were also present. I have to thank my best friends for leaving everything behind and rushing to be with my brothers on the Saturday night my mom passed away. I couldn’t physically be there with them but I felt at ease because I knew they were comforting the boys for me.
Amazing and extremely helpful was the support that I received from my professors and mentors. I was able to use them as my ”sounding boards” to figure out my next steps in life. I skyped with my thesis advisor who was kind enough to talk with me as she conducted her own research in Colombia. I received emails and phone calls from my graduate professors in Bloomington, IN. I talked on the phone with my college mentor from Connecticut and discussed much over many lunches with two of my professors and friends in NY. They have all helped me tremendously and I honestly do not know how to repay them for what they have done.
Despite the constant support I get, there are many things still uncertain. This Thursday, we have a court hearing. I’m nervous and I’m scared that the judge won’t believe that a 24 year old can take care of her 2 younger brothers. But finding your blog, Siblings Taking Care of Siblings provided me with hope and makes me worry a little less.
Not Finding Time to Grieve
I have been doing all the necessary things to ensure that my brothers are okay. However, all these responsibilities, small and big tasks and looking out for my brothers has left me no time to grieve. It’s frustrating to see her friends fall apart and even see my brothers lash out all of their angry and confusing emotions. But I can’t do that, physically and emotionally. I just don’t have the time. Sooner or later, it’ll come. I just hope that when it does come, I will have the space and time to let it all out. And that I won’t have to worry about keeping it together.
It’s only been a month since my mother passed away. It’s still all fresh and I feel I may still be in shock. I don’t really have words of advice. But there are some things that I would like to point out to anyone passing through a difficult time:
1. Reach out. I wouldn’t have been able to support myself or my brothers here in NYC if it weren’t for the support (financially and otherwise) that I received from close friends and even people I’ve only said hi to in the hallway of my department in Bloomington. It’s important to ask for help when you need it. As always, it is easier said than done but seriously, it’s very important to reach out. This is a time where we need all the support we can get and people are happy to help.
2. Stay together. It has been a really difficult time for all of us. This August, it will be 3 years since my grandmother passed away. She, too, was young. It seemed unfair that life took away our grandmother and then my mother. My superwomen are gone. But we have learned that even though our superwomen are gone, we need to continue on and support each other in every way we can. We have to be each other’s superheros now.
I know this will be a hard journey for all of us but we love each other. And that’s all that really matters. My mother was strong; she had me at a very young age and was still able to provide my brothers and I endless opportunities. Her strength continues to live within us. Everyday, we are reminded of the sacrifices she made for us and we will continue to live each day to honor her.
P.S. I was granted sole custody of the boys! We’re moving to Indiana where I can continue my PhD program and my brothers can start anew in their schools. This is the beginning of a new life. One where I know my superwomen are watching over my every step and making sure that the boys and I keep moving forward towards a bright future.
Thank you to Stephanie Huezo for sharing your sibs raising sibs experience.