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SIBLING RELATIONS

Updated: Aug 27, 2021

A Sister's Perspective on Holding Space


When we were first dating, my husband, an only child, once said to me, "I don't understand you and your sister." I replied, "What do you mean?" He responded, "One minute your laughing and hugging and the next your fighting." In a rare and profound moment, I stated, "That's what it means to have a sibling."


“You can choose your friends but you sho' can't choose your family, an' they're still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge 'em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don't.”


Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird








To pay homage to National Middle Child Day, I thought today would be a great time to discuss sibling relationships. I am not a middle child, I am the youngest. I have one older sister, who is four years older than me, and whom I love all of the time. The rest of the time I am enthralled, engaged, delighted, frustrated, angered, touched, challenged, amazed, joyful, irritated, competitive, territorial, excited, curious and a million other things. My sister and I can laugh together like no one else. We share a tumultuous childhood that left scars, along with laughter and love, taught us to survive and excel, and built our foundations to become successful and fairly well-adjusted adults.


We also lived a mile from each other, only spending a handful of time together. We spent a long period of our adult lives barely speaking. Since our parents passed, we have grown closer than ever, taking a life coaching program together and even becoming business partners. We discovered through hours of conversation, laughter and tears, to heal old wounds, to listen, and to tell our stories. We learned it felt like we grew up in different households with different parents. We are both very unique individuals who share many similarities. Our life paths have been incredibly different, yet we share history, blood, and a profound ability to laugh together that makes the tears run down our legs. That shared history is both a solace and a roadblock, a bridge and a wound, a healing and a kindredness. Beyond that is the reality that we are continuing to choose each other in spite of it all.



“Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply.” – Jane Austen

Like many younger children I idolized my sister when I was little. Anything she wanted I could easily be cajoled into doing with just the tiniest bit of affection or attention thrown my direction. I did not recognize that behind the scenes my mother was telling my sister continually, "Take your sister with you!" My mother's command, which could have been viewed as a huge burden to her, never once came across to me. Her friends were my friends. They took me all over and let me hang with them and as a result, I grew up having many adventures and performing great feats of courage, eager as I was to please them.


At that young age, I had no idea that maybe my sister pulling me in tow was also a way of protecting me. She had always been my protector. As sisters growing up with a bipolar Dad, who was undiagnosed until our teens, was like being tossed about on a ship's deck during an unwavering storm. We were seasick and frightened with no solid ground or safe harbor to anchor us. My sister harnessed all the fear out of our household growing up because she was willful and strong - right out of our mother's womb. When my Mom came home from the hospital with me, she, all of age 4, looked at my mom and demanded, "Where's MY baby?!" Her childhood and teenage years were spent running with boyfriends, being grounded, battling nightmares, and trying to reason with my mom why we should just leave my Dad. She was a warrior in the perennial Notre Dame Fighting Irish Mascot stance - dukes up and on the defense.


“Siblings: children of the same parents, each of whom is perfectly normal until they get together.” – Sam Levenson

A double-edged sword indeed were we. Where she was hard, I was soft. Where she went soft, I went hard. Being vulnerable is a courageous art we had yet to master back then. We carried our childhood shields from warring with our family against the omnipresent invasion of mental illness on our domestic headquarters.


It was years later that I was able to appreciate all my sister did to ensure her own survival. And it is only recently, through our journey through life coaching training, that I truly understood and applauded all the effort it took for her to escape and survive. As a coach you learn to hold space for your client and actively listen with zero other intentions. In practicing to actively listen and hold space, I also learned to do that for and with my sister. Now, instead of chastising her for what she didn't do, I have listened and understood all she did do. I see her now in her wholeness. I understand her choices and am grateful for her journey that got her to now. We already started healing, yet this experience of learning to let go of fear and practice what we coach, allowed us to share and express ourselves, to see each other's truth and innocence, embrace our compassionate natures, and love and respect each other much more deeply.


So as she is the protector, I recently discovered that I am the nurturer. And when she allows me to nurture her I am at my best. So I find us at an interesting crossroads in our lives. A much more open, loving, and interesting space where we talk, are curious about each other, care about each other, are less judgmental, and more reciprocal. We listen more keenly and take risks to express ourselves more honestly. It is still scary, challenging, feelings get hurt, shared history rears up, presumptions are made, and expectations prevail. Now, though, we address them. In our discomfort we find comfort and understanding. It does not mean always agreeing or sharing equal perspective. We give space and we hold space. We are more gentle, more compassionate, more acknowledging, more grateful, more loving and more willing. Together we are more.


“The greatest gift our parents ever gave us was each other.” – Unknown

I have expressed and let go of my angry, sad and hurt little sister to make way for her perspective, her story, her history. Now we share an adult relationship of equal women forged from a life with a shared origin story. Now we meet in the middle and are the best of sisters. We do the work of our relationship with little complaint and always with the intent to honor each other. This has created a beautiful place of genuine closeness and genuine support for each other in spite of any roadblocks on our path. With age, our edges soften, our capacity for acceptance of who each are widens, and our hearts listen more accurately to each other's needs. And still, we laugh . . . until the tears run down our legs.



Have your own relationship you wish to repair or grow, a heart that needs to mend or open, an inner child that needs to be reconciled and healed? No one can find courage alone. We all need support. Manifest Guides & Life Coaches are here to hold the space for you to move forward. Book your first life coaching appointment today and get ready to catapult yourself toward your best life. Go to ManifestGuides.com and let us share the honor of supporting you to become your best you.


#Healing #SelfLove #SelfCare #Growth #Forgiveness #Siblings #Relationships #Truth


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