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Family Dynamics

Broadening National Siblings Day to Include the Estranged

The founder of the day defends her idea and offers programs for everyone.

Key points

  • National Siblings Day, with social media posts, happy photos, and loving tributes, often hurts the estranged.
  • The estranged can protect themselves by identifying triggers, avoiding social media, and curbing rumination.
  • The founder of National Siblings Day says she never intended to hurt or exclude anyone.
  • National Siblings Day now broadly defines "sibling" as someone who steps into the role of a brother or sister.

Two years ago, I wrote a blog post calling attention to how estranged siblings experience National Siblings Day. That caught the eye of the founder of the national day, Claudia Evart.

In 1995, Evart established the day to recognize and honor relationships between siblings. Having lost her brother and sister at a young age, Evart wanted to create a special day to appreciate and cherish the connection between siblings.

My blog post was entitled “Mark National Siblings Day by Making Peace With Estrangement.”

Here is part of that post:

National Siblings Day is April 10. For sisters and brothers who enjoy good relationships, it’s a welcome cue to appreciate those loving bonds. But for the estranged, National Sibling Day is no cause for celebration.

Quite the contrary: The dreaded day is a painful reminder of the void in their lives. The hurt is worsened by the annual social-media flood of happy childhood photographs, along with loving tributes to brothers and sisters. Indeed, many of the estranged who don’t live in the U.S.—and other countries like Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ghana, India, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Nigeria, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, and the United Kingdom that celebrate the day—are relieved that their country doesn’t observe a sibling holiday.

I also offered suggestions about how the estranged can protect themselves and find peace on National Siblings Day and throughout the year:

  • Identify painful triggers; anticipate and avoid them wherever possible.
  • Put away photos or memorabilia that create distress.
  • Block contact on social media and avoid scrolling, especially on National Siblings Day,
  • Try to curb rumination about grief and losses.
  • Be realistic about the relationship. Accept what it is rather than fantasizing about what it could be.

When Evart read this post, she was alarmed. Reaching out to discuss it, she tells me that in the 27 years since its founding, nearly all the media coverage of the day has been positive.

“I was pleased that you opened my eyes,” she says. “I was struck that people are suffering, and I don’t want anyone to be hurt by my idea.”

This wasn’t the first time Evart was made aware that the day was difficult for some people. One year, she tells me, she approached a group of people sitting at a New York pizza parlor and asked, “‘Hey, did everybody celebrate Siblings Day today?’ Some said yes,” she remembers. “But one boy who was in his 20s started crying. I asked him what was wrong. He said, ‘It’s a horrible day for me. I hate my brother, and I can’t wait until the day is over.’”

This young man’s reaction, along with my post, prompted Evart to contact me in hopes of improving the general understanding of the day.

The story behind National Siblings Day

Ten years after her brother and sister died, Evart says she had an “aha” moment on her birthday. “It was the loneliest day of my life,” she recalls. “I realized that never again would I hear from my siblings on my birthday—no cards, no calls, nothing.”

In her sadness, Evart wanted to honor her siblings. So, she went to a Boston public library to learn how to create a national day. A librarian informed Evart that she had to get the day published in Chase’s Calendar of Events, a thick reference book—some 500 pages at the time—that lists everything worth knowing and celebrating for each day of the year. This includes 12,500 holidays, national days, historical milestones, famous birthdays, festivals, sporting events, and more.

Evart selected April 10 for National Siblings Day because that was the birthday of her late sister. She has renewed her designation of the date every year since registering it. In recent years, Evart’s Siblings Day Foundation has persuaded 49 governors to sign a proclamation recognizing the day. She also has petitioned three past presidents—Obama, Bush, and Clinton—to designate it a holiday observed nationally, like Mother’s or Father’s Day; Evart still hopes to accomplish the goal.

For Evart, the day is a kind of living memorial to her siblings. With this effort, she finds that her siblings “stay alive with me every day.”

A broader interpretation of National Siblings Day

Evart explains that her intentions and goals for the day are to honor siblings in the broadest sense of the word. The Siblings Day Foundation has established several recent programs to serve that purpose. These include:

  • Sibling-to-Sibling Support Groups — To assist in coping with the loss of a sibling, as well as to help in overcoming differences, issues, and situations that may keep siblings apart, the Foundation has joined forces with the Columbia University School of Social Work and other grief and grievance programs to provide community support groups and connections.
  • Adopt a Sibling Program — For individuals who have lost a sibling, are out of touch with a living sibling, or have no siblings, this program is a way to honor and appreciate a special person on April 10.
  • The Sibling Rights Project — This project, which is in its early stages, will research current family-law legislation and undertake lobbying to ensure that siblings’ rights are recognized and protected.
  • Lost Sibling Registry — This project, also in the early stages, helps brothers and sisters locate a lost sibling through a database.

Evart’s efforts are intended to celebrate not only siblings but also friends or relatives who step into the role of a brother or sister. “You have to realize what you have before it’s too late,” she says. “I took my siblings for granted. I never said, ‘I love you.’ I never gave them many hugs. I want the bond to be recognized for the special gift that it is.”

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