Surviving Siblings

My brother Ben died of cancer when he was 27, and I was 23. Several years later, I came to this project with an interest in telling a story of the grief felt by young people who have suffered the loss of another young person.

Initially, I was hesitant to take a first-person narrative approach and make this a personal documentary, but my adviser, Chad Stevens, encouraged me to tell my own story. Rarely, he said, are you in a position where you understand some level of your subjects’ pain and process. I took his advice and used my own story to weave together a short documentary of three young women who have lost a brother or sister to cancer, suicide, and an automobile accident. In this short film, Kim, Amy, and I reflect on our personal experiences, and how we carry them with us as we move forward.

This shared experience, both the grief of losing a sibling and the vulnerability of putting that grief in front of a camera, was an important lesson for me as a storyteller. I’ve always been hyper aware of the responsibility you take on when you ask someone to entrust you with sharing a piece of his or her life. But nothing could heighten this awareness more than editing a story about one of the most important people in my life, and the influence that person’s life and death has had on me.

I am incredibly grateful to Kim and Amy for allowing me to share their stories. To Elena Rue who conducted my interview, asking just the right questions in just the right way. To Graham who made it possible to film a race I was running in, and as always, patiently watched more edits and versions of my work than anyone should ever have to see.

And though it goes without saying, to my parents whose unending love and ability to keep moving inspires their daughters and everyone who knows them, to Alli, who understands my love and loss like no one else possibly can.

And to Ben, for teaching me how to be tough and to keep going.

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