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Recognizing Glass Children – The SIBS Charity

Submitted by on April 9, 2019 – 11:17 amNo Comment

I have recently been appointed to the Board of Trustees for a charity called SIBS, www.sibs.org.uk   whose work focuses on the needs of siblings – children, teens and adultswho have a brother or sister with a lifelong disability or health problem.

This cause is dear to my heart as I have a sister Liz,with Down’s syndrome, born in the 1960’s when attitudes towards people with disabilities or handicaps were mainly focused on shutting them away in institutions or, considering them as some sort of karma for the parents who must have committed dreadful deeds. This certainly stuck to my father who was already suffering PTSD and survivor syndrome having been a Japanese prisoner of war and my  mother who considered herself cursed anyway because she was born out of wedlock.

My father became more depressed and rarely spoke, whilst my mother immersed herself in fundraising for the mentally handicapped and numerous part time jobs. The rest of the wider family sat and tutted about what should be done and never raised a hand to help, (notice the cross tone  coming in here)!

So, who was left aged 11 to be the helper – yes, you guessed it me. Cooking meals whilst mum worked, often having them thrown away by my father who didn’t like what I had prepared, spending hours putting my sister to bed, taking her swimming, playing endless games of the card game Pairs. Any protestation or feelings from me opened me up to the families phrase ‘ you are alright you are normal’ or ‘how nasty you are’. I despaired. No one could see me, I was invisible, eventually I stopped asking or pretended not to care.

My schoolwork was left to the last minute and I would often find myself in detention’. I became detached with angry outbursts, because try as I might, I couldn’t get someone to hear what I was saying. A glass child.

All of this came rushing back recently when my sister was transferred to a nursing home because of a massive brain bleed. She is nearly 60 now and the brain bleed means her limited communication has now been rendered completely silent.

For the first time in a long time I wept for the younger me.

One of the nurses at the unit suggested I look at SIBS. I had heard of them years back but this time I followed up.

Their work resonated with me and, even though I had practiced as a psychotherapist for  25 years, I had never explored the box marked ‘Liz and Alison’, so long locked up I couldn’t remember where to find the key. SIBS helped me open it.

Since reflecting over the last few months, I have come to understand why I chose the career path of therapist and later career coach.  I wanted to make sure I could help where someone felt despairing,lost or hopeless did not go unseen.

I have received extensive training from some wonderful people, brilliant therapists , Benedictine Monks, and spiritual advisers who understand the value of listening, the patience it takes to enter into someone else’s world and see how it is for them and not how you think it should be. To share their despair without offering sympathy, to help them realise their own strengths and how they want to use them. To be behind them as a safe, solid space.A launching pad.

SIBS has helped me consolidate my training, life experience and professional career into a whole, which is why I am now on the Board with other like  minded wonderful people who are all siblings. Like all small charities, raising our profile  – (please go to SIBS page and sign up for newsletter to be kept up to date with what we are doing www.sibs.org.uk)plus getting funding to carry on changing siblings lives,is always a challenge. If you can help or want a charity to raise funds for, please let me know or contact our CEO Clare Kassa directly.

When you watch the video below, SIBS is like the one mile an hour wind.


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