When a brother or sister has to cope with their sibling’s serious or chronic illness, these special sibs can feel great admiration for their brother and sister, as Jennifer warmly described in her blog last week. But siblings can also carry the weight of their own emotional issues. Family routines and dynamics can abruptly change when a family needs to adjust to a member having a serious illness. Often it is the well siblings who lose out. Here is a discussion about common feelings experienced by well siblings, and specific ways to help support their emotional health:


We have created some exercises just for these special brothers and sisters. Siblings can decorate plain white pieces of paper by creating their own beautiful borders with markers or scraps of wrapping paper. These pages can then be used for the exercises below:

Broken Promises
Siblings often are asked “to understand” when an urgent need comes up for their brother or sister. If this has happened to you, write about the times and how you felt about it. How did you handle the situation—what worked and what didn’t work?

Outta My Face
Have you felt other kids or grown-ups are being too nosey about what is going on with your brother or sister, or worse yet, you? Often they ask these questions because they really do care, and don’t know a better way to show it. How can you let those people wanting to love and support you do so while still maintaining your privacy?

Center of Attention
Lots of kids with special brothers and sisters wonder, “Why can’t I be just like everyone else?” Describe how getting special attention makes you feel. If you don’t like it, can you imagine ways to tell someone to treat you differently?

Waiting in the Wings
It can be really tough if it seems like you are getting the short end of the stick. It is absolutely okay to feel frustrated, sad, or angry, or a mix of all three. Write about your feelings then think of ways to entertain yourself or reach out to someone special while you are waiting for “your turn.”

Fan Mail
Make a special card for your sib and tell them something you’ve always wanted to tell them, but haven’t because you were scared, shy, or maybe didn’t know how. Now is your chance.

In addition to these exercises, many of the writing prompts in Digging Deep are applicable to siblings too, so sibs can continue to make more journal pages and respond to the questions that apply to them, right along with their brother or sister. There is a special power that comes when families begin journaling and sharing together.


Sheri Brisson
Sheri Sobrato Brisson is a brain tumor survivor who discovered the importance of self-reflection during her recovery. From her personal illness experience and a dozen years supporting families and children with serious illness, her life’s philanthropic mission is to empower families and children facing serious illness. She has started and facilitated support groups for children with illness and their families for over twenty years with organizations such as the American Cancer Society, National Brain Tumor Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, and Packard Children’s Hospital. She has served as Board Member for many children’s health nonprofit organizations including American Cancer Society San Jose, UCSF/Mt. Zion Auxiliary, Creighton Health Institute, and Okizu Foundation. Brisson received her master’s degree in counseling from Santa Clara University and her undergraduate degree in human biology from Stanford University.
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