Creativity and Sibling Loss
When adults are asked what helped them survive the loss of their brother or sister, they often credit creative pursuits such as writing, painting, or singing.
A psychologist named George Pollock made a study of creative individuals who had lost siblings during their childhood or adolescence. He thought that creativity could be both the result of resolving grief or part of the grieving process itself. Others, such as Melanie Klein, suggested that creativity helps to take the place of the relationship with the lost loved one. She said that drawing and painting could be used to repair a psychological injury. She also notes that not everyone becomes creative in this way, but becomes more productive in a different way--by becoming capable of appreciation of life and more tolerant of others--in other words, wiser.
Pollock stresses again and again how the surviving sibling is confronted by the reactions of the parents and other siblings as well as their own responses when the death occurs. The children can feel "unloved, alone, ignored during the bereavement period, or they may become overprotected, overinvested with care and apprehension. The children may feel pushed aside, ignored, abandoned at a crucial time. Pollock says that "not all children and adolescents emerge from this family tragedy with psychopathology or distorted personalities. Some become very creative and deal with their mourning for the dead siblings in a positive way."
Like many other bereaved siblings, I have found that writing about my experience with loss has helped me to heal. Here is something I wrote about sorrow.
She rises out of nowhere, like a wave from the sea,
Slowly at first, silently, then crests and peaks;
Still I have a choice
I can turn away, go to work, watch a movie, play a game...
But I know sorrow well.
Though I turn away, she will wait,
Until I am still,
Then crush me with all of her accumulated power.
Once I had angry walls to shut her out,
But her incessant pounding tore them down.
So now, when she rises,
I turn to her and say,
Here I am, I know you, sorrow.
She crashes on my shoreline,
And sorrow and I are one
Until, trailing frothy whitecaps,
She sweeps away.
by P.G. White
Pollock quote from "Perspectives on Sibling Loss", Northwestern University Medical School, June 8, 1985.
Copyright © 2000-2011 P.G.White, Ph.D.