Oct. 5, 2022

Audree Kropen on Losing her Sister Robin (Part 1)

When Audree Kropen unexpectedly lost her sister Robin at the age of 12, her whole life changed. Her family decided to stop talking about Robin completely and not acknowledge the fact that she had passed. Now 50+ years later, Audree feels ready to...

When Audree Kropen unexpectedly lost her sister Robin at the age of 12, her whole life changed. Her family decided to stop talking about Robin completely and not acknowledge the fact that she had passed. Now 50+ years later, Audree feels ready to share her healing journey and how that single event has immensely impacted her life and who she is today. 

In this week's episode, I am sharing Audree and Robin's story, how her family dynamics affected Audree’s life, and how they decided to deal with her death, what Audree has done to heal as a Surviving Sibling.

In this episode I’m covering:

  • Intro [00:00:00]
  • Audree and Robin’s family story [00:01:32]
  • Robin’s story [00:13:08]
  • How the family was dealing with Robin’s death [00:19:56]
  • Moving out [00:36:43]
  • Starting to move forward [00:40:29]
  • Audree’s perspective on therapy for Surviving Siblings [00:44:22]
  • Becoming a mother and honoring Robin [00:47:28]
  • Advice for Surviving Siblings [00:54:12]

For full episode show notes and transcript, click here

Connect with Audree Kropen

Website | Sibs Forever

Facebook | Sibs Forever

Instagram | @sibs.forever

TikTok | @Sibs.forever

Twitter | sibsforever


Connect with Maya 

Instagram | @survivingsiblingspodcast | @mayaroffler 

TikTok | @survivingsiblingspodcast

Twitter | @survivingsibpod

Website | The Surviving Siblings


[00:00:00] Maya: Welcome to the Surviving Siblings Podcast. I'm your host, Maya [00:00:10] Ruffler. As a surviving sibling myself, I knew that I wanted to share my story, my brother's story. I lost my [00:00:20] brother to a homicide in November, 2016, and after going through this experience, I knew that I wanted to share my story [00:00:30] and his story, and it's taken me quite some time to come to the mic to tell it, but I knew it was an important one to tell.

[00:00:38] So here I am to share [00:00:40] his story and mine with you. And it's important that I tell the story of the surviving sibling, the forgotten mourn, the story that is [00:00:50] not told enough. So thank you for coming with me on this journey, and now it's your turn to share your stories.[00:01:00]

[00:01:00] We have an incredible guest here today. Her name is Audree Crok. She is the founder of SI's forever.org. [00:01:10] Welcome to the show, Audree. Ah, thank you Maya. I'm so excited to have you here. I was so excited to discover sips forever.org and [00:01:20] you a fellow surviving sibling. So without further ado, I would love to hear more about your story and the loss of your [00:01:30] beloved sister Robin.

[00:01:32] Audree: Thank you for having me. I'm really excited to be able to actually tell my story from beginning to end, and it is a long story. Gonna be [00:01:40] 67 years old on September 20th, so, a lot, a lot of years. I was 12 years old when my 14 year old sister Robin, very [00:01:50] unexpectedly died. And that really set my childhood and really my whole life off into a, a different direction.

[00:01:57] So in order to really kind of completely [00:02:00] understand what happened to me it's important to understand the family that I was born into, and it was very dysfunctional. Although it might not have been apparent from the outside, [00:02:10] appearances were, were very highly rated. It's the only thing that really mattered, but my parents were emotionally ill prepared for parenthood.

[00:02:16] They just weren't set up to be parents and [00:02:20] especially parents to the children that they had. So, a little background. My mother was an only child and she herself had a challenging beginning and I think this is [00:02:30] important to understand. It was very important for me and it took actually a fair amount of therapy, therapy for me to understand.

[00:02:36] How her upbringing really affected the kind of parent [00:02:40] that she was. So her mother took her as a toddler from her natural father. They lived right near Detroit and just sort of upended her, moved her to New [00:02:50] York and started a laundry business. And this was back, you know, in the depression days when, when starting a business and, and making a living were very challenging.

[00:02:58] And in order for this to work for her, she [00:03:00] put my mother into like a daycare night kind of facility for several years while she got this business going until she eventually remarried and then she [00:03:10] passed off my grandfather, her new husband that she just married as my mother's natural father. So my mother discovered this as a teenager and it really upended her life as well.[00:03:20]

[00:03:20] But this early trauma left her damaged in some way. And she was quite damaged. She was very insecure. Very narcissistic, really had no [00:03:30] concept of what it was like to be a loving parent. I mean, her herself was, you know, she was the only child and then had this sort of traumatic beginning. So she was, she was abusive physically and [00:03:40] emotionally.

[00:03:40] You know, she would get very upset, like once we were driving and my sister and I were squabbling, and she reached back and she'd sort of tried to strangle me. And in that same episode, she dug her nail, like into my [00:03:50] sister's thigh, left this scar that actually never went away. So she was you know, she was I, I would say has, you know, had a very bad temper and [00:04:00] really was out of control a lot of the time.

[00:04:03] My father, on the other hand I'm also not, not really set up to be a, a parent either. He had one older [00:04:10] sister who was my aunt, May her name was May and she was four years older than him, but she always advertised herself as being four years younger. And when my father was a teenager, right around [00:04:20] 15 or 16 years old, his father died very unexpectedly, just kind of killed over in the street from heart attack.

[00:04:26] And my father took over sort of being the man of the [00:04:30] family. He had some financial responsibilities, so he didn't go to college. And, and like my, my aunt May did. So he, he just basically started working at that point and he [00:04:40] continued to work and worked himself to death, really supporting a lifestyle that he never was able to really afford.

[00:04:47] And so he was always working and always [00:04:50] spending more than he was taking in. And he sort of had this secret life, like when I was growing up, you know, he had his own phone number and it would ring and he would have these conversations. He [00:05:00] had his old post office box sometimes people called and they referred to him by a different name.

[00:05:06] So, you know, he, he, he was he was a mystery. When [00:05:10] he died in 1994 at 75, and I went up and kind of poured through his closet I discovered he really did have quite a secret life that he never [00:05:20] told anybody about. Once when I was in my twenties. And he was going through his important papers with me there, as he was going through you know, his business papers and birth certificates, there was[00:05:30] a divorce decree had absolutely no idea that he had a previous marriage.

[00:05:35] And the reason that he never said anything really, I mean it was, you know, radio silence [00:05:40] is that my mother didn't wanna be known as a second wife. She thought that that would be degrading to her to be known as a second wife. So she insisted that he never disclosed it [00:05:50] or mentioned it ever, and he never did.

[00:05:52] So you know, you can see it was very dysfunctional, insecure parents, very focused on outward appearances [00:06:00] and you know, anything that. Like wasn't neatly painted into this picture that they wanted to expose you know, caused them a lot of anxiety. So my sister Robin [00:06:10] was on the autism spectrum somewhere.

[00:06:12] The story predates anything that you know, all the things that we know about autism today. But she clearly was, she was [00:06:20] socially awkward, physically off, awkward, struggled in school. She was a brilliant musician, though, a piano player. I mean, she just had a natural talent for playing the [00:06:30] piano. I can still visualize her playing the piano in our living room.

[00:06:33] You know, just, it was just, just amazing. But she, she was an embarrassing child for them. [00:06:40] And since my parents believed that having friends, being socially adept, being popular were the most important things, it was very [00:06:50] difficult. And they. They felt that these things were so important because they wanted to project this perfect American family image.

[00:06:58] So they didn't [00:07:00] understand Robin, and they criticized her and they pressured her to be somebody that she absolutely just could not be. And so she was very unhappy [00:07:10] and very stressed and, and just not really a happy child. Her awkwardness. And it was you know, a parent was hard to cover up [00:07:20] and they couldn't, my parents just couldn't make it disappear as much as they tried.

[00:07:23] But they, they pressured her, you know, to have friends and they would say things like, as you get older, the water would get deeper and you won't be [00:07:30] able to make friends. It was just, it was unbelievable. When I look back at it, I mean, at that time, Yeah, I mean, at that time that was all I knew. So you know, I don't think I was [00:07:40] thinking too much about it, but looking back at it, it was pretty horrendous.

[00:07:44] And because of that, you know, there was just a lot of, a lot of stress. My father probably didn't really even like my [00:07:50] sister, neither did you know, his sister at May that I described earlier. You know, they didn't understand her. They didn't have the kind of qualities that they really [00:08:00] valued, and they, they were embarrassed by her.

[00:08:01] I mean, that's, that's the bottom line. My mother didn't absolutely didn't know how to parent anybody, but she was very challenged to parent a child [00:08:10] like Robin. My mother herself, as I said, was very narcissistic, and she really needed to be front and center, always. I mean, she couldn't even be like, if you were taking a [00:08:20] picture of the family, she couldn't even be on the end, like, Oh my. She was like, stopped.

[00:08:24] Maya: That's, yeah. That, that's intense right there.

[00:08:27] Audree: Yeah, she would like, stop the picture. She did this [00:08:30] multiple times. She would stop the picture and rearrange who was in the picture that she, so that she could be in the middle. So she really was that narcissistic and that, that, you know, that intense [00:08:40] need.

[00:08:40] And even with me, she was very competitive. You know, she really needed to be front and center, but with Robin, it was you, it was just more than she could do. She just didn't have those skills. So you know, she just couldn't, [00:08:50] she couldn't you know, parent properly. So me, you know, I was there and you know, I kind of sat back and I was, I didn't have those problems that, that Robin did.

[00:08:58] I had my own set of problems, but I [00:09:00] was, I, I would say I was probably more of a, you know, a normal, typical child. So I was able to stay out of the pressure spotlight more than, than Robin was. You know, I didn't really come [00:09:10] to Robin's defense. I think, you know, I've had a lot of guilt over the years of not doing that.

[00:09:15] But in reality, I was only 12 and. You know, through, through a lot of therapy. You know, [00:09:20] I kind of understand that I grew up in this environment and it was all that I really knew. So you know, I don't have a lot of memories, you know, being playful or [00:09:30] close to Robin. Not a lot of good memories of us, you know, being, being sisterly.

[00:09:34] I wasn't always very nice. We were kids. So you know, those memories are there [00:09:40] and the, there's memories that are lacking that I really wish that I had had. So if there are other, you know, other surviving siblings listening to this whose siblings died unexpectedly like mine, [00:09:50] you know, it's really easy to have, you know, your final words or actions with your sibling be sort of not what you wish they would be and troubling.

[00:09:59] You know, but the [00:10:00] reality is, as I've learned through therapy that, you know, siblings growing up together, they fight, they make up, they fight again. A lot of times as you grow into adulthood together, you resolve all [00:10:10] those, and, you know, we didn't have a, a chance to do that. But obviously deep down, you know, we loved each other and that never stopped.

[00:10:17] So I would say, you know, to really focus on the [00:10:20] love and not so much on the specific words or actions that might have happened right before the death.

[00:10:25] Maya: Oh my gosh, Audree is already dropping some incredible advice for surviving siblings. I mean, [00:10:30] only a few minutes in, that's, that's beautiful. And so, so true as, I mean, you're telling a story of loss at a very young age [00:10:40] and you know, your sister's only two years apart, right?

[00:10:44] So, I mean, I have sisters so I know how that story goes. Right? So, you [00:10:50] know, you don't always get along, but there's a lot of people listening and I'm sure they're like, Oh yeah, I wish I didn't say this. You know, the last time I saw them. So wonderful [00:11:00] advice, Audree.

[00:11:00] Audree: So, so my sister was two years older. She was only one school grade apart.

[00:11:04] And I think because of the, you know, the autism like issues that I described, she repeated [00:11:10] kindergarten, you know, a second time. So we were just one school grade apart and for a lot of times she went to private school, so we didn't really even go to the same school. Although that, that changed.

[00:11:19] She got a little bit older [00:11:20] and, and, and we did. So you know, that's, that, that's how, that's how we grew up. She did pass away when she was 14. We, she had what we thought was just kind of a [00:11:30] normal childhood disease. You know, she was listless, kind of tired stayed in bed back in those days, pediatricians made house calls at least ours did.

[00:11:38] And he did [00:11:40] come at least once. But you know, nobody really thought it was life threatening and a 12, you know, I just thought she was sick. And kids get sick, kids get better. I mean, I didn't really. [00:11:50] Think anything much about it.

[00:11:54] Maya: We hope you're enjoying this incredible episode of the Surviving Siblings Podcast. I'm your host, [00:12:00] Maya Roffler we'll be back in just a minute. After hearing from our incredible sponsor.

[00:12:07] Sibling relationships are eternal. [00:12:10] Our siblings are such an integral part of who we are. We don't move on when we lose a sibling, although we can eventually move forward.

[00:12:18] That is why it's essential as [00:12:20] surviving siblings to hold onto our sibling memories, stories and precious moments. sibsforever.org was created to be your online memory book. [00:12:30] It was designed and built by a surviving sibling for all surviving siblings everywhere. It is a secure and private platform for surviving siblings to chronicle [00:12:40] memories through storytelling, pictures and videos.

[00:12:44] Sibsforever.Org is a virtual platform for you, the surviving sibling to commemorate and [00:12:50] honor your sibling relationship. Visit sips forever.org today to create your free profile and start building beautiful commemorative webpages, [00:13:00] including photo and video galleries featuring you and your sibling.

[00:13:08] Audree: So the night, the [00:13:10] night of her passing was I was at a play. I was in seventh grade, and I really enjoyed kind of all the drama you know, aspects of being in school. So I joined the drama [00:13:20] club and I tried out for the musical. And so this was the school musical. It was Oklahoma. The day was November 17th.

[00:13:25] This was 1967. So my sister was born in [00:13:30] 1953. So I was very excited. It was the weekend of that performance, and I didn't have a very big part. I had this little tiny. Dance role in the dream sequence. [00:13:40] But I was, you know, very excited. So I really wasn't focused very much on Robin. And my last words were really, were something like, Bye, and I was out the door for the [00:13:50] play.

[00:13:50] You know, it wasn't, wasn't anything more than that. During, during one of the musical scenes, I, I, I kind of had this, this strange quiver and chill, and I do remember it. I can put myself back there [00:14:00] and feel it again. But, you know, I was, I was nervous. I didn't really think much about it, but I could still remember that song and feel that chill.

[00:14:08] And so I [00:14:10] had some, some trepidation, but again, you know, I was excited. It was the play. So when I came home after the play the house was full of people. It was unbelievable. [00:14:20] Some people I knew, some people I didn't. When I opened the door, there was a nurse there, you know, I'd never seen this nurse.

[00:14:26] She was, you know, dressed in white nursing costume. She opened the door and, and [00:14:30] told me that, that Robin had died. It was it was just, it was just amazing. It was, it was surreal. So there were people kind of meandering around the house, so I knew somebody didn't know. [00:14:40] They were talking about Robin, they were talking about me.

[00:14:43] I really felt like it was, I was at a dream sequence. My mother, who was 41 years old at the time, announced [00:14:50] to this house full of people that she was gonna have another child just like that. Never had mentioned ever having another child before that I was aware of. My father was [00:15:00] 59 years older than her, and he seemed just as surprised by this announcement as I was, She just announced it.

[00:15:07] Maya: Was she actually pregnant at the time, Audree?

[00:15:09] Audree: I don't, [00:15:10] no. She just announced that she was going to, this was going to happen. Yeah. That, that, that she was going to get pregnant and have another child. So she wasn't pregnant, but this [00:15:20] was, you know, her way of dealing with it. Was that Okay. I'm gonna have another child, you know, without , without ever talking to anybody, including my father.

[00:15:28] She just kind of announced [00:15:30] it. It was, I'm telling you, it was just really, really bizarre and almost unreal when I think back at it. So, you know, I'm wandering around. I [00:15:40] don't know who any of these people are. I don't even know who I am anymore. And she's announcing she's gonna, you know, have another child. And that was the night. So.

[00:15:48] Maya: Who told you? A [00:15:50] Audree told you, you walked in and you saw a nurse and you saw your house full, but who actually told you that Robin had passed?

[00:15:57] Audree: The, the, the n the nurse did. Wow. When I [00:16:00] walked in somebody, a stranger, you know, there was people, some of them, some of them I did know, you know, some of them were friends than my parents, but some of them weren't.

[00:16:09] I mean, it [00:16:10] was just, I didn't even know who I was. So the whole thing was you know, it was so, so offsetting and. You know, my life changed, right? I mean, I was [00:16:20] this younger child. That kind of, everything was pretty easy. I, I was very easy going. Not necessarily, you know, a hard worker, just kind of, you know, wanted, have [00:16:30] fun.

[00:16:30] And all of a sudden that night, you know, I was an only child. My parents were obviously in, in this strange, distressful, unhealthy place, you know, a [00:16:40] house full of people. It was, you know, I did, I didn't know what to do and I didn't even know how to feel. I think I was completely completely numb. So I, I did go to the funeral.

[00:16:50] They didn't allow me to go to the burial. I'm guessing they didn't wanna seem, see, they didn't want me to see her lowered into the ground. But I did go to a funeral and, which was an open casket [00:17:00] funeral. And I have that vision of her wearing this blue dress with white, you know, white dots inscribed in my brain.

[00:17:07] It's, it's, it's not a, it's not a memory I like but it's a [00:17:10] memory that I have. And at from then you know, it just, it just got worse really. I, I spent some time at my, one of my friend's house, [00:17:20] Liz. I think my parents wanted me to not be there for the first few days. I don't think I was there for very long, but I was back and I, I remember very clearly how [00:17:30] my parents dealt with it.

[00:17:31] And it was really very alarming and stressing and very unhelpful to me. So my father, who I mentioned really probably never really liked, [00:17:40] Robin was uncomfortable with her, embarrassed by her doctor told him that she was freezing just before her death, you know, she was very cold. She had lost her body temperature.

[00:17:48] And so he, he, and I'm watching [00:17:50] this, he went out to the backyard, cuz you know, it was, it was November the end of November. So it was snowing and he went out to the backyard and he'd lay in the snow to create this similar cold experience for [00:18:00] himself and he'd just lay there . Oh, interesting. Like that.

[00:18:02] Yeah. That's interesting. And then, Yeah. So you know, he had a lot of guilt, you know, he was still working as he [00:18:10] always had been. But my mother set on, you know, she set on this spoken mission to become pregnant. That's what she set out to do. And my father started coming home in [00:18:20] the middle of the day, something that was unusual.

[00:18:23] And five months after Robin's death, she was pregnant. So it didn't take very long. And her focus was [00:18:30] on that. And me, you know, I, I was just basically abandoned. I suffered unbelievable guilt, you know, it really woke up with guilt. Went to bed [00:18:40] with guilt. I didn't, as I said, we weren't close. I didn't say the things I wanted to say.

[00:18:45] I didn't treat her the way I probably would have treated her in a different family. So I [00:18:50] had unbelievable guilt and all that pressure that was going toward Robin pivoted over to me.

[00:18:55] Maya: I was just about to say, I was like, Let's hang on Audree. I wanna [00:19:00] pause in this moment just for a second, because. I hear about this all the time now that I've started to go into this work, and I'm sure you've heard about this much [00:19:10] longer than me because you've been in this for much longer than me, and when you've now shifted to two different positions in the [00:19:20] family, you shifted to only child and no one's talking to you about all these emotions that you're feeling at 12 years old.

[00:19:28] Being an only child, feeling [00:19:30] guilt and shame and all of these things because you feel like, you know, you didn't, you weren't able to talk to Robin and you're not really understanding what's happening because now, and now you're gonna be an [00:19:40] older, you're gonna be the oldest, like you're, so, you, you've taken on two different roles.

[00:19:44] That's a, that's a lot. And yeah, I'm sure a lot of people listening can understand, understand [00:19:50] that. Of course, you felt abandoned. Of course. Nobody, nobody consulted you about these changes ever. Yeah.

[00:19:56] Audree: They were so busy, you know, kind of dealing with things in their [00:20:00] own way, which was not healthy, you know, so, so, I never got any therapy.

[00:20:04] I was never offered any, I don't think that's something that maybe was as popular back then, but certainly not something that [00:20:10] they considered doing or, or bringing into the family. So yeah, so I was abandoned and I had this had to figure out who I was as an only child, [00:20:20] a guilty only child.

[00:20:22] And so what I, what happened to me is I turned from being sort of this, you know, younger child that didn't really work that hard and kind of [00:20:30] found, you know, most things came pretty easy. I became a perfectionist, overachieving, and I just wanted to be perfect at everything. I kind of was [00:20:40] almost like a, you know, a switch was flipped.

[00:20:42] I became a different person. I wanted to excel at everything, and then I wanted to move as far away from them as possible. I wanted to be anyway, [00:20:50] you know, I was only 12, but my goal was to be out of the house as soon as I could be, and to be able to have a lot of choices and to, and to have been [00:21:00] very, you know, very successful in everything that I did.

[00:21:02] So I became very driven. I was numb, but I was driven and, you know, to a large degree, if, you know, if you were to like look at my, [00:21:10] like my report cards, I went from kind of, you know, being sort of this B person to being this a plus person pretty quick. And, you know, to be, to be honest, I've been that way my whole life.

[00:21:19] [00:21:20] You know, I've been a perfectionist and sort of very driven you know, striving to be the best at sort of any, anything and everything that you know, I chose to to attempt [00:21:30] so that personality stayed with me, wasn't, you know, wasn't short term in any way. You talked about my, you know, the term forgotten mourn, you [00:21:40] know, for, for siblings, surviving siblings, and it, it really is the appropriate term.

[00:21:44] I mean, the world moves on, you know, they moved on, my mother became pregnant. You know, my father found his [00:21:50] way. But we don't move on. You know, we, we just don't you know, people need to understand that the sibling relationship, it just doesn't end for us. It, it continues [00:22:00] on and it's devastating and, and really hurtful to act like or pretend you know, that it does.

[00:22:06] And that they did pretend that , that that it, you know, that [00:22:10] things were different. My brother was born 14 months after Robin's death, and, you know, that was both good and bad. It did help deflect some of the attention from me. But it, you know, I, all of a [00:22:20] sudden then, you know, I was an only child, and I mean, I'm an older child.

[00:22:24] So I went from being, as you said, the younger child to the only child, to the older child. And, and I didn't actually know [00:22:30] even, you know, what that was going to be, be about. So some, some other kind of bad things happened to my mother became Estr from her mother. She basically stopped talking to her.

[00:22:39] I [00:22:40] mean, shortly after my, my brother was born, there was some kind of falling out. You know, again, I was, I think 13 by then. But you know, I don't really exactly know, but [00:22:50] I'm pretty sure what happened was, you know, that my mother who member who needed to be the center of attention for everything needed my grandmother, her mother, to really pay a lot of [00:23:00] attention to her and give her a lot of love and support.

[00:23:03] My grandmother needed the same thing from my mother. Neither one of them really were able to give each other what [00:23:10] they each needed. And I think at some point my mother just got frustrated and just said, Okay, and I'm not gonna talk to you. So they really stopped talking and, you know, I lost my [00:23:20] grandmother cuz I wasn't allowed to talk to her.

[00:23:23] I was told that if I was, or if I did talk to her, that that would be disloyal on my part. So I [00:23:30] lost my sister and I, I lost my grandmother too very shortly after my, my brother was born. So I, I hat I, I really hated that. That was very very stressful.

[00:23:37] Maya: That's a lot. Well, that's a lot of loss. And I [00:23:40] think you're, you're actually telling all of our, my listeners that, the listeners of this podcast, a tale that I'm sure a lot [00:23:50] of them have gone through as well, because loss is not just always the loss of our sibling.

[00:23:55] We lose people. As you guys know from my story too, we sometimes lose our family [00:24:00] members through this as well because it's a difficult situation and our family members don't always know how to deal with these situations appropriately because, you know, we're bringing awareness to [00:24:10] this. This is. You and me, Audree, were like all about bringing awareness to this, which is why we connected so well.

[00:24:16] But not everybody knows. And [00:24:20] I have so much empathy for you on that. And it's interesting because I didn't even know we had that in common because my mother and her mother, so I'm talking to each other like a long time [00:24:30] ago too. So that's a whole other podcast and episode. But I'm sure a lot of you guys can relate to this.

[00:24:35] There's a lot of family complications that happen with a [00:24:40] sibling loss and then when it's their child or or grandchild, and you know, we're gonna come up on that in a little while, but a lot of that can happen. So it's [00:24:50] very interesting and I appreciate your vulnerability and sharing that because wow, you went through a lot of loss, not just your sister, you also.

[00:24:59] An only an only [00:25:00] child now you found out you're gonna be the older, I mean, really Audree, that's incredible. And I'd love for you to share with us too before we, I I, I want you to keep pressing forward cuz you have so [00:25:10] much to share with us. It's just incredible. But what was it like to be the youngest, the only, and then the eldest and which one did you [00:25:20] prefer?

[00:25:20] I've gotta ask you that question while we're here.

[00:25:22] Audree: Well, you know, it's almost like I was three different people. Right. You know, because, you know, it's, it's hard even to like bridge them all [00:25:30] together. You know, cuz my memories and gotta remember my parents changed a lot too. So like my mother after my sister died, you know, completely [00:25:40] lost any sense of humor that she might have had.

[00:25:44] Any ability to be playful. Like I kind of remember like before my sister died, like I would come home from [00:25:50] school one day and like she'd be hiding in the closet and surprise me. You know, like little things like that. Now all that totally stopped and she was never [00:26:00] playful or funny or anything at all after that.

[00:26:03] Everything was serious. So she was very different also. So I think my memories of [00:26:10] being, you know, the younger child was certainly easier. Cuz again, you know, my sister had the brunt of the spotlight and the pressure and you know, oftentimes it's the older sibling that [00:26:20] kind of opens the door, the younger sibling just walks right on through.

[00:26:23] So I'd say that was, you know, that that was easier. And I remember being kind of carefree and happy. You know, as the only child, I [00:26:30] was obviously suffering great loss. And I was changing, you know, I, I was changing into this perfectionist driven person. I had a lot of stress. My mother [00:26:40] hovered over me.

[00:26:40] And you know, I wasn't used to having all this attention, so I did not like being the only child for sure. Out of the three roles, that was the one I liked least . So that's [00:26:50] easy, you know, be being the older child. I enjoyed having you know, a younger brother and it did take some of the pressure off of me and, and so they were spending more time [00:27:00] with him.

[00:27:00] But, you know, it was, it was awkward. Because, you know, basically when he was born, all they stopped talking about Robin. [00:27:10] Okay? So you know, her room was turned into a nursery, so what was her room now became my brother's room. [00:27:20] And they you know, they stopped talking about her and I think they didn't want him to feel in any way that he was only born to replace her, even though clearly that was [00:27:30] true.

[00:27:30] But they, you know, my mother. Had this story that she always wanted a third child, and maybe she did, but never said anything. But you know, she stopped [00:27:40] talking about Robin. And so that was very, very difficult. Remember I said earlier that, so, you know, so important , you know, to keep, keep this child, you know, keep, [00:27:50] keep the sibling alive, right?

[00:27:51] The sibling relationship doesn't go go anywhere and you want to talk about your sibling and you wanna remember your sibling. So, you know, having the house [00:28:00] change where they just stopped talking about her was, was very difficult.

[00:28:03] Maya: That's a lot. I mean, that's a lot of change too. Even you having the physical change of, of the room, [00:28:10] I can imagine at, at that age specifically, must have been a, a sense of finality, I would imagine to see that. Yeah.

[00:28:19] Audree: Yeah. [00:28:20] It was difficult. So, so I lost my grandmother. My grandmother, you know, I think, as I said, my, my father and, and his sister aunt May, you know, never understood [00:28:30] Robin, my mother's mother, the grandmother that my mother stopped talking to you know, was a veryt musician like Robin. So they, they kind of bonded over that, and maybe that made it even, you [00:28:40] know, more difficult you know, for my grandmother.

[00:28:42] So I, I played the piano too. As I said, my sister was very talented. I wasn't nearly as talented, but you know, I, I always wanted to play the piano [00:28:50] because I, you know, Robin was so good. I remember when we were very young and you know, I wanted to play and I would pretend that you know, that I was playing, that she was playing and I guess that is, you know, kind of [00:29:00] a sweet memory.

[00:29:00] Most of my memories having to do with being close to her have to do with the music, you know, about the piano playing that we both did and about, you know, maybe playing some duets [00:29:10] and, you know, her being, she was so good and I was so. So envious, but so impressed by, you know, by her talent. So it really is, you know, the music, I think is the, [00:29:20] is the thing that I would say you know, kept us as close as we could be.

[00:29:23] Maya: That is a beautiful sister memory, and that is so a sister like memory, right? It's like I wanted to be [00:29:30] like her. I was a little jealous of that, but I love that about her. Right? That's a very sister memory. I love that. That's beautiful. Yeah. Well, how did you progress? Because that, [00:29:40] I mean, 12 13 is such a pivotal time in somebody's life, especially a young woman.

[00:29:46] A young girl. That's the preteen years. So [00:29:50] it's, you're very impressionable. So kind of walk us through how you have now become this perfectionist, which I'm actually not surprised. Our [00:30:00] birthdays are just one day apart, . So I'm not surprised we're guilty as charged if the Virgo customers over here. Yes. So, but how did you, how did you [00:30:10] progress forward?

[00:30:10] Because that's a lot of loss, a lot of change. Wow. Unpack that for us, Audree. That's a lot.

[00:30:17] Audree: So, I mean, you know, first of all, [00:30:20] it was very difficult to go. My, my mother really did hover over me. I mean, she tried to get inside my head and, and, you know understand my every [00:30:30] last thought.

[00:30:30] And I really was trying very hard to push her away. So there was a lot of frustration in the house because I really wanted to do my own thing. I wanted to [00:30:40] be you know, independent and, you know, figure out maybe who I even was in all these different roles where she was hovering over me and, and. You know, [00:30:50] insisting that I spend time with her and asking me a lot of questions.

[00:30:52] And I remember one time I became so frustrated with her that I actually picked up a bowl of fruit loops that I was having for breakfast and threw it in her face, and she was sitting there [00:31:00] with a milk dripping down her face. I mean, that's how, that's how difficult it was even to live in that house that I got that frustrated to do something like that, which I would never do and [00:31:10] never have done since.

[00:31:12] So I think for me, you know, I, I just wanted to, I just wanted to be as busy as possible. I made myself as busy as possible. I, you know, continued with [00:31:20] piano lessons. I said the music was a thing that really connected me with Robin. So I held onto that really fiercely and became quite a driven pianist.

[00:31:27] And you know, I did was at some piano [00:31:30] competitions and was even a music major for one semester. I wasn't necessarily really that talented, but I was very hardworking. Which compensated for maybe some lack of [00:31:40] talent that I had. So I was very busy you know, with the music, with school, with being in these plays.

[00:31:48] I really enjoyed being in the place. So [00:31:50] I think I just kept myself so busy. I didn't know who I was, but, you know, the, the music kept me close to, to Robin. The plays allowed me to be whoever I [00:32:00] wanted to be, what whoever the character was, I was portraying in the play. So I really liked the plays, but I was not, I didn't know who I was.

[00:32:07] So, I, I, from [00:32:10] 12 to you know, when I moved outta the house at 17, I really didn't mature. I was kind of the same as 17 as I was with 12 emotionally, because I didn't have any [00:32:20] therapy. I kept myself busy, but I didn't really mature. I was hovered over overprotected, so it was difficult. And you know, it, it [00:32:30] left me in I think a, you know, a very damaged and, and vulnerable condition.

[00:32:35] So that was kind of, you know, kind of, kind of what happened during those those other years. And I said them, you [00:32:40] know, the music is, is really important. And again, that, that would be another piece of advice I think I would give siblings. If you connect, you know, to your departed sibling in a way where, you know, you shared something like, [00:32:50] like the music or you know, some other kind of hobby or, or talent.

[00:32:54] I think it's really important to continue to do those things and, and they'll keep your [00:33:00] memories alive cuz you know, the music is just, is just really important. And I can tell you that every place I lived, I've had a piano. Even when I lived in a [00:33:10] dorm room, I had a piano. I mean, I just never, I, I didn't understand back then why I needed a piano so badly.

[00:33:15] I do understand it now after, you know, having old therapy through [00:33:20] my adult life. But I, you know, wherever I lived, I rented a piano where, You know, ultimately was able to, to buy one, but in a dorm room, I, I rented an [00:33:30] old story in Clark piano, and then, you know, various places I lived apartments, I always had a piano.

[00:33:35] I, it just, you know, it was just, it was just you know something that was a given to me. And I [00:33:40] now realize that because I needed that, because that was the connection I had to Robin. And by not having a piano, I was basically losing that connection. So that was the way I, I, [00:33:50] I kept her alive. I'm, you know, I have the piano music that she played before she passed away.

[00:33:57] I've, I've kept it. I have it [00:34:00] right now. I've kept it with me. I've moved it from house to house and believe over the years I've moved many times and I've kept the piano music and many, many other artifacts that I've, [00:34:10] you know, moved with me. But piano music specifically you know, with all the notes you know, from our teacher and Mrs.

[00:34:16] How, who's. It was a teacher that we had when we, when we took [00:34:20] lessons, and I have all those kinda music with all those little notes that she, she gave to, to Robin. So, so so yeah. I would say it's really important to continue [00:34:30] to, you know, to embrace those things that you share together.

[00:34:34] Maya: Yeah, definitely. So tell us a little bit [00:34:40] about you, the actual loss of Robin, though. Did you ever find out what happened to Robin?

[00:34:49] Audree: So [00:34:50] I, I did. I mean, I, I have some version of what happened to Robin. I think my, my parents they did have an autopsy done because they were concerned that there was something congenital that [00:35:00] maybe we needed to know about.

[00:35:02] So so there was some technical, you know cause of death. So what they told, what they told me, which was you know, really all I [00:35:10] know. Was that you know, she basically got sick and had a virus that landed on her heart and it caused her heart to stop. I'm sure there's something much [00:35:20] more medical.

[00:35:20] But that's, that's what I was told. And, you know, that's that's basically, you know, what happened, as I said, you know, after [00:35:30] my brother was born, they really stopped, stopped talking about her. And it was, it was difficult for me to have any conversations with them that included her.

[00:35:38] Maya: Right. [00:35:40] It was kind of like, he's here now, let's move forward.

[00:35:43] Like this is, it's a, it's a new year. It's, it's a new child. Wow. Yeah.

[00:35:49] Audree: And, and they were [00:35:50] different. I, you know, they, they were better par they were better parents with him. Interesting. They, they definitely were, they were older. You know, as I said, my father was, you know, was, was in his fifties and my [00:36:00] mother was in her forties when they were, when he was born.

[00:36:02] So I think in general, just being older, they probably had. Calm down. In, in some ways. And plus they were just different from having, you know, having [00:36:10] gone through the, the death of a child. Sure. But they, you know, they were definitely more patient. He wasn't a special child like Robin. He was, you know, more typical child and in their first son.[00:36:20]

[00:36:20] So they were you know, they were, they were more patient and I think in general, more loving to him. And so it was, they weren't that way to me, by the way. , [00:36:30] they were still the same to me, but, but they,

[00:36:32] Maya: that was gonna be my follow up. I was like, Okay. Audree, unpack that for us though. Cause how was the, how did the dynamic as you went through [00:36:40] life and there was the perfectionist in you, When did you move out? What was that?

[00:36:43] Audree: Oh, so I, I moved out, you know, as soon as I could when I, when I graduated from high school. Mm-hmm. , but [00:36:50] so but, but they were different parents. But as I said, yeah, I was so busy and I was trying not to be there very much. Sure. So I don't think I was disturbed by, I, I wanted them to be good [00:37:00] parents for my brother.

[00:37:01] I mean, I loved him, you know, he was, and I'm very close to him today. Yeah. Obviously we didn't, we didn't grow up together being so far apart in age, [00:37:10] but as adults, we've you know, we've, we've gotten close. And so I was, I was happy they were good parents to him. And I was, the thing is, I was, you know, for me, I was in this state of numbness, [00:37:20] you know, of having lost my sister and then having her gonna be erased from the house.

[00:37:24] So it was, you know, it was very devastating. I was very insecure. I had didn't have a good opinion of my myself. [00:37:30] I, you know, I'm, I wasn't nice to my sister. So I kind of grew up in this sort of damaged, insecure, I mean, I was, I compensated by being this perfectionist and, and very [00:37:40] successful at many things.

[00:37:40] But that didn't change the fact that I didn't know who I was. I didn't know who I wanted to be and. Those, you know, those things that they, those two things just [00:37:50] lived together and I just wanted to, I just needed to get by and, and mm-hmm. move out. So I did graduate from high school in 1973. I, I moved away, but I had the [00:38:00] maturity of a 12 year old.

[00:38:01] And so it was gonna be a disaster . And it was you know, it's, it was, it was awful. So I moved into a dorm where I had this gto, [00:38:10] gto, which was, you know, unusual. But I didn't take care of myself. I mean, I didn't, I didn't really value taking care of myself. I didn't care. I was still numb. And [00:38:20] so I became sick.

[00:38:21] I got pneumonia and I was hospitalized and ended up having to drop outta school. So yeah, I basically didn't take care of [00:38:30] myself, which caused me to get sick. And, and I dropped outta school. I didn't know who I was. I felt unlovable, unworthy So after that I [00:38:40] dropped outta school. I moved into a house with some other people some other young people, and I took some, some classes.

[00:38:46] I took some nursing classes, not because I wanted to become a nurse, but I just wanted to [00:38:50] kind of, you know, understand myself, you know, a lot that, you know, I was taking nursing because I needed self care and I needed care. So I took took some classes and, [00:39:00] you know, hopeful, hopeful that somebody would you know, would care about me.

[00:39:05] And I kind of, you know, I, I, I tried to figure out who I was, but it's very [00:39:10] difficult to you know, in the state to, to become healthy. I had. Some poor you know, I'll say unhealthy, codependent relationships. You know, with men, [00:39:20] I became engaged to somebody who I had absolutely had no intention of marrying.

[00:39:24] None whatsoever. But it was almost like I was stepping outside my body, watching myself portray this, you know, this [00:39:30] role of of getting married. And then of course I never did because I would, was not ready to get married. And I don't even think I liked him, but I, you know, I didn't know who I was so I could be with somebody [00:39:40] and just be whoever that person wanted me to be.

[00:39:42] Mm-hmm. You know, looking, looking for some you know, some love, some caring, some redemption. So you know, it was, it was bad. I had a [00:39:50] very, very, very low point when I was 19. I became pregnant because I didn't really care enough to not become pregnant. And I say that was the lowest point. [00:40:00] You know, it set me into, you know, ultimately into a better direction because I couldn't have gotten much, much lower than that.

[00:40:05] But it was you know, it was a very, very you know, eye opening you know, [00:40:10] situation to be in. You know, I considered the whole thing just to be, you know, one big disease. And I realized at that point that, you know, I had to do something otherwise I was just gonna [00:40:20] self destroy and I didn't wanna Was kinda,

[00:40:22] Maya: Was that your moment, That was your moment of change for you?

[00:40:25] Yes. Like, I've gotta do something. Yeah. That's an in, that's a big moment. Yeah.

[00:40:29] Audree: [00:40:30] Yeah. I realized then you know, it couldn't get any worse. I mean, that, you know, I didn't know who I was, I was on a tilted world, Right. I was just going here and there being whoever anybody wanted me to [00:40:40] be you know, hanging on.

[00:40:41] And then it couldn't continue that way. I was, and I did, and I, I, I didn't want a self-destruct, Right. I wanted to. I wanted to be [00:40:50] somebody, I wanted to figure out who I was. So you know, I realized that I needed to do something to at least start the journey toward becoming healthy [00:41:00] and and functional. So I, I went back to school two years after graduating from high school and I started getting therapy through I didn't have any money.

[00:41:09] I might [00:41:10] think I mentioned that my father didn't have any money and was always having a lifestyle that he couldn't afford. So they weren't able to help financially. But I was able to get some, start with some therapy [00:41:20] services through student services of the one year when I was a student, I was able to go and get go and start therapy.

[00:41:27] And I did that the day that I started my first [00:41:30] class.

[00:41:31] Maya: That's amazing. Was that, was that like the game changer for you was going to therapy or did it take some time for you to. Be open to [00:41:40] it or were you just like all in right away?

[00:41:41] Audree: Oh, I was all in right away. I mean, I, I, I had to get better. I mean, I couldn't continue on in this, in this mode.

[00:41:48] It was, it was impossible. [00:41:50] So, and I, I knew the only way to get better was to, was to get help. I wasn't able to do it myself. I had lots of time between 12 and 19, and I, you know, I never got it [00:42:00] better. So, yeah. So I, I, you know, started therapy. I have had therapy, not continuously through my whole life. I mean, it's, you know, it's a long time, but I have [00:42:10] had therapy intermittently, you know I'm in therapy right now.

[00:42:14] But, you know, without any counseling or support, I think I would've not been able to get better. So I [00:42:20] can't really over emphasize how important therapy and counseling would've been for me. Had I gotten it at the time. I'm sure I could have avoided a lot of the, you know, [00:42:30] the trauma that I went through and difficult years.

[00:42:32] But ultimately, you know, getting it at, you know, beginning it at 19 you know, saved my life.

[00:42:39] Maya: That's really [00:42:40] powerful and powerful to anyone listening. And I agree 150%, you know, I do, I don't think I would be [00:42:50] sitting here today. Definitely wouldn't be doing this right now. Talking to you, Audree or any of you guys, because like [00:43:00] therapy has been just the biggest biggest help.

[00:43:04] I mean, I, I just, again, I'm like speechless. I don't know how else I would've, you know, and also [00:43:10] connecting with others that understand, because this is something, as you had mentioned much earlier, you know, unless you've gone through this, you know, we are the forgotten warriors. We are the people that [00:43:20] are forgotten about.

[00:43:20] And knowing that you're not alone is, is huge. And sometimes therapy is the first step in that process. But I just wanna say that. I find you [00:43:30] so progressive, Audree for your time because I, there's a lot of people at 19 in that, in that time that wouldn't have gone in with open arms [00:43:40] to therapy. But there's a lot of people in 2022 that don't go in to therapy with open arms.

[00:43:47] Right. I mean, this is, this is real. [00:43:50] And another thing I hear all the time too is, you know, I went once and it didn't work for me. Well, you know, my advice is typically, you know, try someone [00:44:00] else if that didn't click for you or, or you know, go a couple times and really give it a shot. But what was, I mean, I'm just so blown away by you and you just went all in.

[00:44:09] [00:44:10] You knew, and I relate to you also, but what advice would you. Those who kind of feel defeated after one, you know, session or feel like it's not for them. Like what's [00:44:20] your perspective? Cuz you just went all in, which I,

[00:44:22] Audree: Yeah, and, and believe me, I didn't have great therapists through student services. I mean, I have a really good therapist today.

[00:44:27] Right. You know, but you cause the [00:44:30] journey. So, you know, I I, I think, you know, for me, any therapy would've been okay. I didn't, I didn't even think to evaluate the therapist. I was just, you know, I [00:44:40] just went right in. But I think if you, if you were to go in, you feel like you don't connect to the therapist, you know, somebody that maybe is more mature than I was at that time I think you definitely wanna [00:44:50] give the therapist a chance and then yeah.

[00:44:52] Get, get a different therapist. I mean, over the years I've had, you know, maybe seven or eight different therapists, Right. I lived, lived in different [00:45:00] places and I was in different situations. Not all of them have been, you know, as good as the one I have now, for instance. But you know, I think af you know, you have to.

[00:45:09] I think you have to be committed to the idea of therapy, not committed to the therapist. So if you're committed to the idea of therapy, then you know you're gonna find a therapist because you wanna get better. And so if the first one af you know, you don't wanna, I don't think after one session you really know, but after a few sessions and it really feels like, you know, you're on different wavelengths, then [00:45:30] yeah.

[00:45:30] Find somebody else. I think, you know, getting a recommendation from somebody that you know, who's used a therapist is probably the best thing. I mean, the best therapist I've had, I've been [00:45:40] ones that were recommended, the one I have now, I actually took a, a class and she was a teacher and I just really connected with her as a teacher.

[00:45:46] So, Went up to her and asked her if she, you know, she you know, had [00:45:50] clients and she, you know, she said yes. And so, you know, I've kind of found her myself. But I've had a couple that have been recommended from people that I respected, and I think those have been the most successful. But [00:46:00] again, you, you wanna be committed to the therapy and then find the therapist.

[00:46:04] Okay. You know,

[00:46:05] Maya: I love that. Yeah. I love that. No, I don't think anybody's ever said that [00:46:10] before, and I think at least not to me. So I think, again, for those of you listening as surviving siblings or to anybody that is seeking advice or a counselor therapy for the first time, [00:46:20] you need to be commit. God.

[00:46:22] I love that, Audree. You need to be committed to the therapy. It's not always just. I do feel like, to your point, I do feel like you need to, [00:46:30] to feel a connection, but I don't think one session, you know, unless it's just like red flags of fly in right in the first session. You don't, you don't, you don't know you need to give it a shot.[00:46:40]

[00:46:40] Also, when you're in, to your point in the numb phase, that can be a year, that can be a couple years. It depends. Everybody's different. Sometimes you don't know. You have to be [00:46:50] committed to the therapy. Ugh, Audree, I'm using that, that, that is like in my tool belt now. I love that. Well, once you committed to the [00:47:00] therapy, you obviously came out on the other side as a surviving sibling, as I kind of like to call it.

[00:47:06] And you know, we've talked about this before just in our [00:47:10] connection that, you know, we don't believe in moving on, we move forward. This is with us for life. And it sounds like this was your point of moving forward, learning to [00:47:20] move forward truly, and getting these tools to move forward. So, What I, And then you became a mother.

[00:47:28] Audree: So I did. And so it, [00:47:30] it took me a very long time. I mean, it's, you know, it's obviously always a work of progress. Like you're never there. You're always getting there. So I went back to school. I was, again, very [00:47:40] driven and perfectionist, so I, you know, was successful. And I got, you know, I got a, a degree of math and a master's degree in computer science.

[00:47:46] I've had a lot of, you know, professional success. I married pretty [00:47:50] young and I think I wasn't ready to be married clearly, but I married young because I really desperately wanted children and to create a healthy family. You know, coming from the family that I had, I [00:48:00] really felt empty. When it came to families.

[00:48:03] I wanted to be the mother that my mother could never be. You know, I wanted to be that mother who would've been good for [00:48:10] Robin. I wanted to be that mother who would've been good for me. So you know, I prioritized finding a partner using criteria that. You know, it was kind of unusual . [00:48:20] So I wanted somebody that was willing to have children fairly quickly, and somebody that would give me a lot of space.

[00:48:25] I mean, I clearly didn't know who I was. I needed a lot of space. I couldn't have any pressure you know, to be [00:48:30] something, or, you know, that I didn't even know who I was myself. And so I chose a partner that, you know, that checked those two boxes. I [00:48:40] was a crappy partner and spouse. I'll, I'll admit I wasn't very good because at that time I didn't know who I was.

[00:48:46] I still felt unlovable. You know, I ended up really not [00:48:50] being a good partner. I was vulnerable. I wasn't faithful. And so you know, I did it and I, I know why I did it, because I had that, that powerful need to be a mother [00:49:00] and to have a healthy family. But clearly it would've been healthier and kinder to people in my, in my orbit if I had waited until I knew myself better.

[00:49:07] But I didn't. And so [00:49:10] I plowed forward and I continued to work and I was, I was a pretty driven workaholic for many years. Continuing to strive for perfection. And I had a lot of, I [00:49:20] had a lot of success, a lot of professional success, and I, that helped me to feel better about myself.

[00:49:25] Professional success always does, but it really was never enough to [00:49:30] fill that big empty hole I had in my heart. So I didn't end up you know, divorcing after about 19 years of, of marriage, I re remarried. And of course by [00:49:40] then I knew myself a lot better and made a much better choice, and a very happily, happily married.

[00:49:46] I obviously got married to have children, so I wanted children right away. I [00:49:50] hated, hated my stints as an only child, as, as I said, out of all three roles. That was the one I liked least. So I, yes, never would've considered ever having just one child. [00:50:00] I, you know, and I never considered being childless. So I had two children 21 months apart.

[00:50:06] So my first child was a daughter and I named her after [00:50:10] Robin, and her name is Brie Robin. So I made the robin the middle name, and I did that very, very deliberately. I always planned to do that. I wanted [00:50:20] Robin to be remembered. I, my parents blotted out her memory after my brother was born, and that was very, very difficult for me.

[00:50:27] I wanted her to be remembered. And having Brie [00:50:30] have her name you know, was, was sweet. I, I loved it. And you know, it, it, it made me even feel close to Robin in addition to the music. So, you know, as [00:50:40] a small sidebar, about 10 years ago I went to my, my 40th high school reunion. My 50th is is next year.

[00:50:45] And, and a woman that I was I was in a play with she was actually in that Oklahoma play, but we [00:50:50] were in many other plays also. Oh, wow. Yeah. Her name was Maxine, which is my mother's name. But we were that play and a couple other plays. She came up to me and, and she talked about Robin, [00:51:00] remembering Robin.

[00:51:01] And you know, nobody had mentioned Robin in years. I mean, I don't live in the same state or, and, you know, I don't, I don't have any of the same you know, friends that I had when I was [00:51:10] in high school. But it was just, it was just such a great experience. I mean, I just was so overwhelmed and delighted that she actually remembered and came up to me [00:51:20] and initiated this conversation.

[00:51:21] That it just was great. You know, she remembered Robin after all these years. So it was you know, really a moment. So, you know, [00:51:30] I, I would say for other people you know, other surviving siblings, that it is really healthy and affirming to remember to talk about to delight in and honor your departed sibling.

[00:51:39] You know, they don't [00:51:40] go away. We're, you know, we do go forward, but they're with us. So if people were to ask me, you know, and I know you've talked about this May and your, this [00:51:50] podcast, you know, how many siblings I have. You know, I, I answer that. I have two siblings, but only one is still living. You know, I, I, I don't say I just have one.

[00:51:57] Cuz it's not true.

[00:51:58] Maya: I think that's a [00:52:00] powerful thing because I think when you first lose your sibling and even years after, you still are confused about how to answer that question. So I [00:52:10] love that you just brought that up, Audree, like, A difficult one. And I also think, you know, you, it's your choice, however you want to address that, that question.

[00:52:19] But I'm [00:52:20] just like you Audree. I always say I'm the oldest of four. And if people ask me, Oh, what's the breakdown? You know, tell me the breakdown. I always say, I have two sisters and I have a brother who has passed [00:52:30] away. And that's it. And that's the conversation. And you know, the reaction sometimes is, Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry.

[00:52:36] You know, sometimes, you know, in my opinion, I think the [00:52:40] reaction is a little inappropriate sometimes when I don't know that person very well and they wanna find out a little bit more. And you know, I'm to a point now where I've shared my story with the world, so [00:52:50] I don't feel that way as much anymore. But in the beginning I was like, gosh, they wanna know a lot.

[00:52:54] And then when they hear it was a homicide , a K murder, they feel a little different, right? [00:53:00] So it's, you know, but we evolve as life moves on. And so I really love that you brought that up, Audree. I just, I think you're, so, I think it's interesting that [00:53:10] you were so different. In your youth because you're so raw and vulnerable, and the work that you're doing with sips forever.org, which we're gonna talk about even [00:53:20] more guys, this is just part one with Audree.

[00:53:21] We're gonna talk about part two so much more on part two because she has a part two to her story and has gone through sibling loss again. And [00:53:30] we're gonna talk about that on part two. But before we leave part one, I want you to answer the question. I ask all of the guests here on the Surviving Siblings podcast.

[00:53:39] You've given so much [00:53:40] advice, Audree, what is maybe some advice we skipped over or, or forgot to mention that you'd give to these incredible listeners as a surviving sibling, because in part two, we're going to [00:53:50] get your advice and your story as a grandmother whose daughter has lost a child. . And so your [00:54:00] granddaughter is a surviving sibling now, so stay tuned for that.

[00:54:04] We're gonna be talking about her grandson, who she lost. But right now I wanna hear your [00:54:10] advice as a surviving sibling.

[00:54:12] Audree: So, you know, a lot of it I shared, you know, as, as we went along. So I'd say the most important thing is to, is to [00:54:20] get healthy yourself. And, you know, for me, that turned out to be you know, therapy.

[00:54:24] I think, you know, everybody that's in this situation probably needs some help. If you, [00:54:30] if you don't have a family, you know, that maybe can offer all the help, you know, needs some outside help, but, you know, really embrace the help and, you know, [00:54:40] your sibling is a piece of you, right? You know, you grew up together.

[00:54:45] In some cases you're best friends in some cases, maybe you're not, but you know, you're [00:54:50] connected. You know, you've got the same parents, you grew up in the same environment. Nobody knows you like your sibling does. And so you, you, you wanna continue that [00:55:00] you, you wanna, you wanna still feel close to your sibling you know, continue the things that maybe you did together and really, you know, hold onto the memories.

[00:55:08] You won't, you [00:55:10] know, you'll, you'll move forward with your life. You have to, you know, you don't, you don't wanna become frozen. But you wanna take with you this relationship and everything that, that you know, that it brought with you, [00:55:20] brought for you. So you know, keep it alive. That is the purpose of of sips forever.org, as you said we'll talk about later, is you know, to help keep those memories and precious moments and stories alive.

[00:55:29] Cuz [00:55:30] there's just, they're so important and there's so much a part of, a part of who you are.

[00:55:34] Maya: Beautifully said, Audree. Well, Audree, thank you so much for part one, [00:55:40] ensuring your perspective as a surviving sibling. On part two, you're gonna share your perspective as a grandmother, so thank you so much for being here today.[00:55:50]

[00:55:51] Thank you so much for listening to the surviving Siblings Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode as much as I did creating it for you, then [00:56:00] share it on your chosen social media platform. And don't forget to tag us at Surviving Siblings Podcast so that more surviving siblings can find us. [00:56:10] Remember to rate, review and subscribe to the podcast.

[00:56:14] And don't forget to follow us on all social media platforms. We're on Instagram, Twitter, [00:56:20] and TikTok at Surviving Siblings Podcast. All links can be found in the show notes, so be sure to check those out too. Thank you again [00:56:30] for the support. Until the next episode, keep on surviving my surviving siblings.[00:56:40]

Audree KropenProfile Photo

Audree Kropen

Repurposed technologist

We were sisters, 2.5 years apart in age. She was the older sib, although we were just one school grade apart since Robin repeated Kindergarten. We shared a room at first since we lived in a two-bedroom garden apartment until I was five years old. We put up a homemade room divider as a way to claim our individual spaces.

Our childhood was not an easy one. There were many reasons for this:

- Our parents were inexperienced with children.
- Our mother was an only child.
- Our father had an older sister, but he assumed a parental role when his father died at a very young age.

Robin fought hard for our childhood freedoms. I was able to just walk through all the doors that she managed to pry open. In the summer of 1964, we took an 8-week trip across the country from New Jersey to Los Angeles. There was a lot of time spent together during that trip. Fortunately, I have pictures of that trip that help to keep the memories fresh and I have started to write about this in a SibsForever journal entry.
As sisters, we were quite competitive. Robin was a very talented pianist. She could play "by ear" and transpose music easily. I admired that and tried hard to achieve a similar musical mastery. But I was the analytical one who saw everything as a math problem, so my potential was limited. I can still visualize her sitting at the piano in our childhood home.
This set of framed paintings were displayed above the upright piano in the living room of the house where we spent the majority of our childhood. Yes, we had our own rooms by then. Robin's room was painted blue and mine was pink. I have these framed pictures along with many other pictures that have traveled with me over all of these years.
Robin died when she was 14 years old, quite suddenly and unexpectedly. I was twelve. It's now more than a half-century later, but it remains the single event that has most impacted my life and who I am today