Supporting Siblings Through Chronic Illness

Chronic Illness Chronically Ill Siblings Sibling love Sibling support Teaching Siblings to Support Each Other

Lisa's journey with epilepsy began at 3 years old. Overall, Lisa's childhood was great despite the moments where the seizures would flare up or a medication would have a frustrating side effect. At fifteen though, Lisa's seizures became uncontrollable. Doctors tried, but nothing worked. Lisa became mostly homebound and sometimes even room-bound as she was sensitive to noise and light. There is much more to Lisa's story by God's grace (so stay tuned for future posts), but today we want to talk about supporting siblings through chronic illness.
Though we sought to support Lisa in her journey, because her illness was long term it soon became "normal" for us and sadly it was easy to forget the trauma she was experiencing daily. Or perhaps, we blocked it out because it was too hard to bear. Either way, it is so important to remember to show continual compassion and care through long term illness. Though people learn to cope with their illness and can seem strong, the pain of having an illness never really goes away. They need support for the long run. So, if you have a sibling with an illness, give lots of hugs, listen when they need to talk, and be there if they need to cry. Ask them what would encourage them. There will be moments where they may need some extra encouragement or even a little "tough" love to help them push through something difficult. However, this can only be done with lots of communication and compassion because you won't understand everything they are experiencing and need to be careful to not push them past their capability. In some cases, you may need to seek advice from a professional that understands chronic illness in order to learn how you can best help. And last but not least, always be their cheerleader. With long term illness you can become too emotionally exhausted to celebrate the small victories, so siblings needs to be there to celebrate with and for their sibling.
If you are the parent of multiple children and one has an illness, it's your job to teach siblings how to support each other. Children are both far more resilient and far more sensitive than adults all at the same time. Growing up around my sister's epilepsy didn't cause us fear due to the fact that Mom and Dad always stayed calm whenever a seizure occurred. We learned to stay calm and love and support our sister through our parents' example. But, I can also remember times of being jealous of the attention my sister received due to her illness. You can help prevent some sibling rivalry by making sure that each sibling knows how much they are loved! Communication is key. Children understand far more than we realize, so talk to them about their sibling's illness. Make sure they are comfortable and know how they can love their sibling. Also, make sure the sibling with the illness knows they need to show love and support their other siblings to the degree they are able.
Illness doesn't have to divide siblings - sometimes it may even be the glue that holds them together. I know all of us sisters are closer than ever from all we've been through together. 

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