March 15, 2023

Audree Kropen - A Grandmother’s Surviving Sibling Journey

Welcome to season 3 of the Surviving Siblings podcast. We are starting this season with a returning guest and season sponsor, Audree Kropen from SibsForever. Audree’s story is an interesting one, make sure you go back to and from .  In this...

Welcome to season 3 of the Surviving Siblings podcast. We are starting this season with a returning guest and season sponsor, Audree Kropen from SibsForever. Audree’s story is an interesting one, make sure you go back to Episode 4 and Episode 5 from Season 2

In this week's episode, Audree returns to talk about her granddaughter, Brenna, who is also a surviving sibling. Audree shares how she has supported Brenna in her grief journey and becoming a surviving sibling, what well sibling syndrome is and how it shows up in her granddaughter, how therapy has helped with Hayden’s death, how Brenna found a way to honor her brother through music, and what’s coming next for

Season 3 is brought to you by, a virtual platform to commemorate and honor your sibling relationship. Create your free profile and start building beautiful commemorative web pages that can include photo and video galleries featuring you and your sibling.

In this episode I’m covering:

  • Intro [00:00:00]

  • Audree’s story recap [00:02:18]

  • Well sibling syndrome [00:07:26]

  • Brenna’s story [00:09:18]

  • How Brenna’s story differs from Audree’s story [00:16:32]

  • Brenna’s experience with therapy [00:19:54]

  • Struggling with Survivor’s Guilt [00:24:21]

  • Honoring her brother through music [00:30:26]

  • Brenna’s site [00:33:47]

  • Next steps for [00:38:43]

  • Exploring different artistic mediums for Brenna [00:45:30]

  • Letter to Robin [00:50:33]

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 

Website | The Surviving Siblings 

Instagram | @survivingsiblingspodcast | @mayaroffler 

TikTok | @survivingsiblingspodcast

Facebook Group | The Surviving Siblings Podcast

YouTube | The Surviving Siblings Podcast 

Patreon | The Surviving Siblings Podcast

Twitter | @survivingsibpod


✨Get The Surviving Siblings Guide HERE


[00:00:00] Maya: Welcome to the Surviving Siblings Podcast. I'm your host, Maya Ruffler. As a surviving sibling myself, I knew that I wanted to share my story, my brother's story. I lost my brother to a homicide in November of 2016, and after going through this experience, I knew that I wanted to share my story and his story.

[00:00:27] Maya: It's time to share your stories now. The Forgotten mourners, the Surviving Siblings. The story that is not told enough. Season three of the Surviving Siblings podcast is brought to you. Bye sips, a virtual platform for you, the surviving sibling. To commemorate and honor your sibling relationship, visit sips today.

[00:00:50] Maya: To create your free profile and start building beautiful commemorative webpages that can include photo and video galleries featuring you and your sibling. Now let's dive into the episode.

[00:01:12] Maya: Welcome back to the Surviving Siblings Podcast. I am so excited to kick off season three. I have Audree Thurman Crowin here. A lot of you guys know her from season two. If you haven't listened to those episodes, episodes four and five, she is the founder of sipps and also a big part of the reason why we are able to do season three. Audree, welcome back to the show.

[00:01:41] Audree: Ah, thank you, Maya. I'm really happy to be here. I love doing last season with you and I'm looking forward to this season as well.

[00:01:48] Maya: I am beyond excited to kick off the season with you. Loved doing episodes four and five in season two with you. Loved hearing about your journey as a surviving sibling, and then hearing about your journey as a grandparent who has a grandchild who lost their twin. So I'm gonna turn it back over to you, Audree, so you can kind of catch us up. If you guys haven't listened to those episodes, give us a little bit of an overview of your story and then we'll dive into some of the topics we're gonna talk about.

[00:02:18] Audree: Okay, so I did record episode episodes four and five last season, but I will summarize and so we're all kind of up to date. My name is Audree, as Maya said, and I have been a surviving sibling for more than 55 years, and that is a long time. In episodes four and five, I tell my story, which is long, that's why it's two episodes, but I'm going to recap it right now. I started my life as the youngest of two children, two girls. I had a sister from a fairly dysfunctional family.

[00:02:48] Audree: My sister, her name was Robin, and she was two years older than me. Robin was somewhere on the autism spectrum, autism being a word that was not really used back then in the sixties. And she struggled with awkwardness and anxiety with parents that pressured her to be someone that she just simply could not really be.

[00:03:06] Audree: So she was a very unhappy child. She passed away at 14 years old, very unexpectedly. I was 12 and in the seventh grade hours after she passed, My mother, who was then 40 years old, announced to a room full of people, many of them strangers, that she would try to conceive another child, and five months later she was pregnant.

[00:03:26] Audree: The family dysfunction continued as we each tried to deal with Robin's death. Separately and apart, I was emotionally abandoned and suffered intense survivor's guilt. I transformed from this casual kind of happy-go-lucky, younger child into a driven, pressured and emotionally numb only living child from 12 years old when my sister died until I left the house at 17, I really didn't grow emotionally at all.

[00:03:53] Audree: I didn't receive any counseling or support and really struggled in countless ways. After my brother was born, things got somewhat better because the spotlight was taken off of me and it was, uh, and it was shared with him. But, uh, the pressure was still there. Robin's room was turned into a nursery. And she was rarely mentioned or spoken about since my mother did not want my brother to feel like he was just born to replace her.

[00:04:19] Audree: So this really only made things more difficult for me. After a very turbulent set of teenage years, I emotionally really kind of bottomed out. Uh, I started therapy and this was kind of, uh, when I was in my very young twenties and began to climb my way out of a deep hole. But I have to say out loud, that therapy really did save my life.

[00:04:39] Audree: I went on to college and then after that, went to graduate school, married and had two children. I named my eldest after Robin. She was a daughter, and her name is Brie Robin. She's now 41 years old. Bree Robin had twin children born in 2009, named Hayden and Brenna. 10 years later in 2019, when Hayden was just 10 years old, he was a diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor, a hundred percent fatal upon diagnosis.

[00:05:11] Audree: And sadly, he passed away 11 months later, shortly after his 11th birthday in 2020. And this left Brenna at 11 years old, a surviving sibling just like I was at 12 years old all those years ago. In addition to being a surviving sibling, I am the grandmother of a surviving sibling. Hayden's death was very triggering for me and a, a lot of my guilt and anxiety came flooding back.

[00:05:36] Audree: I did resume therapy at that time in 2020, and I've been in therapy ever since. I went as far as consulting a medium to try to get some sense that everything was kind of in a good place for Hayden after his death. And I, I found a lot of comfort in what, what she told me. And, and the, the basis was that Hayden and Robin were growing up together and the time difference between their deaths really didn't matter.

[00:05:59] Audree: And that was very, uh, very soothing for me. I started a nonprofit, which as Maya said, is called Sibs forever. and I decided after a little while just to walk away from my consulting business and focus exclusively on that and focus also on my granddaughter, Brenna. And it's really these two things, Maya, that I wanna talk about.

[00:06:21] Audree: My granddaughter, Brenna, how she's been doing, what she's been doing, a, as a surviving sibling, and my nonprofit company, Sibs forever. So about Brenna, her lead up to being a surviving sibling was completely different from my experience with Robin's sudden and unexpected death, right? She knew her brother was declining, she was there and at some level she knew he would not survive.

[00:06:45] Audree: She watched him just decline over these months, very dramatically at the end she saw, she saw him unable to even move other than to flutter his eyes. So she knew my daughter, Brie and I spent a lot of time in energy research and clinical trials for Hayden, even though it was a hundred percent. You know, fatal, you still have to try.

[00:07:05] Audree: And so clinical trials was, is the way to try. And so we spent a lot of time researching and there really was only one that he qualified for. And that was at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. So we traveled across the country. We tried hard to include Brenna in all this and that she wouldn't suffer from what is known as the well sibling syndrome.

[00:07:26] Audree: And it really is a syndrome. I suffered from it myself, and it's what happens to the well sibling who has a sick sibling or a sibling who passes away. So it kind of occurs when the well sibling feels invisible. Ignored, maybe overshadowed by the six sibling or defined by the sibling's special na needs, if the sibling may be is autistic or has some other, uh, some other ailments.

[00:07:50] Audree: Or it could be defined by parental grief following the death of a sibling. So it it's that feeling of being invisible, that feeling of being overshadowed, that feeling of being guilty. I'm sure many of us listening to this podcast who became surviving siblings as children or while living at home with their parents, understand what Wells Siblings syndrome is very well.

[00:08:10] Maya: But I don't think, I just wanna say this real quick though, Audree, because you are so spot on with this. I did. I'm learning today. , like I you earlier, before we jumped into the episode, I did not know about well sibling syndrome. So I hope that all of you guys are getting a lot out of just this first real piece of information because this is, this is the thing.

[00:08:34] Maya: This is huge, and thank you for defining that, Audree, because. Wow. I'm sure there's so many of you guys listening to this that are thinking, oh yeah, I went through this and can connect with all of the things that you're saying, Audree. I just wanted to call that out though, because I had never heard that, um, term before, but it like really clicked with me when you brought it up and then also defined it now.

[00:08:56] Audree: So let me, let me tell you what, what, what it is, at least how, how, how I, how I suffered from it and how I've watched Brenna suffer from it. So when, when you have this, when you suffer from it, you know, and, and we all, anybody in this situation will, it's, you know, maybe the degree will be different, but everybody will have some symptoms of this and it kind of means, you know, at first you learn right away at a very young age.

[00:09:18] Audree: In her case she was 10 when, when he got sick. It means that you learned that life is not fair long before most other children have any idea that life is this unfair. It means that you become an expert at keeping your own problems to yourself because you don't wanna avoid, you don't wanna burden and stress your parents because you're watching them.

[00:09:36] Audree: and they are so burdened and so stressed, you don't wanna add to that. So you end up keeping everything to yourself. It means, at least for me, it meant that I was resentful and angry. I really was. I was angry at my parents for being , you know, being the kind of parents that Robin not being the parents that Robin really needed.

[00:09:57] Audree: Um, I think I was even angry at Robin, you know, for, for making the family, you know, causing the family to change in this way. So I think for me that was a biggie. I think I suffered from low level kind of a seething anger for a lot of my adult life that I did end up addressing in therapy. So, you know, that, that resentfulness, that anger is, is part of, uh, well sibling syndrome and you know, the well sibling, me and Brenna watching our parents suffer and suffer and suffer more, are unable to talk about the six siblings illness or death, or how they might feel about it.

[00:10:32] Audree: it's like the monster in the room. So you're silent and you know, it's very suffocating and it caused me, and Brenna, I think, a lot of distress and unhappiness and people don't understand it because they, you know, they look at the well sibling and they think, oh, she's so lucky. Things must be so easy for her.

[00:10:49] Audree: But it just isn't true because it's really super hard to be the well assembling. And so, you know, knowing that we really tried hard to include Brenna, we didn't want her to suffer from this. Of course, no parent or grandparent would want their child or their grandchild to suffer from, uh, uh, from it. But, you know, in some ways we couldn't include her in everything.

[00:11:10] Audree: Right? We were going to New York. We lived in an Airbnb close to Sloan Kettering for weeks at a time. And, you know, she couldn't obviously pick up and, and, and be there for that whole time. So, uh, you know, we, we did what we could and those things were, for one, we always spoke openly about Hayden's condition.

[00:11:29] Audree: We, we talked out loud about his prognosis, his treatment plan. We tried to keep her in the loop as much as possible with age appropriate discussion, obviously. Um, so she didn't feel like she was on the outside, and I think that that, that, that went a long way. Uh, you know, we tried to include her in the care plan.

[00:11:46] Audree: She did fly out to New York once and interacted with the clinical trial team, uh, along with Hayden, of course, you know, that was just that one time. And there was many other times, but at least she knew who the cast of characters were and kind of what he was doing and, and having her there I think was, was very useful.

[00:12:02] Audree: One of the things that I did, um, and I mentioned this in the last episode, but I'm gonna mention it again because it was, I think, uh, so impactful was I started reading out loud to both kids. I started this one had Hayden first became ill. and initially I bought books as a way for Hayden to learn about his illness and hear stories about how kids kind of found their way forward in fighting cancer.

[00:12:23] Audree: So they were, you know, they, they weren't sad stories, but, you know, stories were of bravery and I would read them out loud, and then Brenna kind of got engaged in it and he loved it and she loved it. So I started doing it every day. I would have like one book for, for Hayden, one book for Brenna, and one book that I was reading to both of them from New York.

[00:12:42] Audree: I started doing it over Zoom and uh, moved to using the Kindle online for the daily reading. And so it was a really good way to involve Brenna from afar. Every single day she was connected to. To Hayden and to us, uh, through this reading. So I think it made a, a, a big difference in terms of her being maybe a little bit less isolated and, and more in the loop.

[00:13:03] Audree: I think the one thing, Maya, that I would emphasize for parents of sick children is really to be extra patient with your well child. Sometimes, you know, with a sick child, you might not have much patience left. And also, you know, don't, don't set the bar real high because your well child already feels so much pressure to be perfect.

[00:13:22] Audree: I mean, I absolutely did. I wanted, I wanted everything to be perfect, you know, so that my parents were not at all burdened by me. I see the same kind of thing, you know, with Brenna. She seeing, you know, she saw her parents be devastated. So this, you know, this goal of being perfect, making them proud and, and, and not being a problem is, is uh, you know, really quite a, quite, quite a burden.

[00:13:43] Audree: So, you know, the pressure of obviously to be perfect is self-imposed, but it's real, all the same. .

[00:13:48] Maya: It's a part of the, well, well, sibling syndrome, I think. Right? I think you've described that beautifully.

[00:13:54] Audree: Yeah. So, you know, knowing that, and knowing how challenging it is to be the well child, right? You're, you know, it's not easy.

[00:14:02] Audree: Uh, you want the Barbie be low. You wanna be okay with the, you know, the, the well child acting out, letting them rage, yell, scream, you know, whatever they need to do. And then just be patient and let that child know that you love them unconditionally. That your heart is flexible and can expand to include everyone, the sick child, the well child, everybody in the family that, you know, the heart expands.

[00:14:23] Audree: It's not like there's not room for both. And, you know, just remind him over and over that the family will always be there for them, regardless of what happens. I mean, tragedy could happen, but the family will be there and they won't be alone, and they'll be supported and they'll be in the environment that, you know, where they're loved and valued.

[00:14:42] Audree: So, you know, it, it, it's those things, but it really is a real thing. I mean, I, I. Could see it in myself, and I was, I could just watch Brenna in the same way. We, you know, we knew more. So we were able to, you know, to help her more than, you know, I was pretty much, you know, pretty, pretty abandoned. Um, as, as

[00:15:00] Maya: you talked about, and I wanted to point that out, Audree, because you know, again, if you guys have not listened to episodes four and five, season two, go back, listen to 'em because this is where Audree really talks about her experience and this is why you're sharing as well.

[00:15:14] Maya: It's really, your experience was different than what Brenna is going through. And I think, although I would never wish this on anyone to lose their sibling and then also lose their grandchild, I think, you know, things in life, sometimes they unfold for us and we realize why something may have happened so that you're able to be here for Brenna in this way and you have an understanding.

[00:15:39] Maya: no one else really in, in the family understands. You guys probably have quite a strong bond, which I know we're going to get into, but I think it's really wonderful that you're sharing her part and her perspective and talking about, you know, what you wish would've happened for you during your time. And I know it was very complicated family dynamics and we, there's a lot of us out here that know, raise my hand, know all about that.

[00:16:05] Maya: Yep. But I think it's a really beautiful thing. I mean, taking a situation that's a very dark and sad situation and helping. , the surviving sibling Brenna, with your knowledge and giving her what you wish you had. And I think I get asked this question all the time, Audree, I'm sure you hear it more than I do.

[00:16:25] Maya: You know, it's from parents. Like what do I say? How do I support them? And we're really un uncovering that today on this episode. And I think that's

[00:16:32] Audree: beautiful. Yeah, and I, and I'd like to say more, you know more about that cuz you're right. I mean, you know, it's unfortunate that I had this experience, but given that I did, I, you know, I really did try to do everything I could to make sure that Brenna's experience.

[00:16:45] Audree: Uh, you know, it was better and the ways that I could, I mean, you can't, I, I, I couldn't, I couldn't make it perfect, obviously, but I could make it better. So, one thing, you know, I felt suffered a lot of sadness and guilt from not being able to tell Robin how important she was to me and how much I loved her.

[00:17:01] Audree: I mean, she died very suddenly. I left the house. I was going to a play. I was dancing in, uh, Oklahoma, um, school musical, and I said, bye. That was my last word. Bye. And then I, you know, I came back and she was dead. So not being able to express my feelings out loud to Robin really left a huge unfillable hole in my heart.

[00:17:20] Audree: So, Brenna. , you know, it was gonna have a chance to, to do what I wasn't able to do. And I really wanted her to have that chance to tell her, her brother Hayden, in her own words and in her own way, how she felt. And she probably didn't know at age 10 that she needed to do that, but at 20 she she would look back and, and perhaps, you know, really wish that she had so, you know, attention didn't have the skills.

[00:17:44] Audree: To extemporaneously do it. I mean, she couldn't just talk off the, you know, off the cuff. Um, probably because she was a little bit shy and she just didn't have those verbal skills. She was kind of a young 10, kind of emotionally younger than Hayden. He was kind of the wise old soul, and she was sort of the more like the brand new soul.

[00:18:01] Audree: So I suggested that she write a letter so she could think about it, choose her words, get comfortable with the words she chose. She could write it, rewrite it, rehearse it, and really get it to be the way, uh, she wanted to be. And, and so she did do that. She wrote her brother a letter telling him what made him unique and special.

[00:18:18] Audree: and she read it to him shortly before his death. And I have this letter, you know, I've kept it. And uh, it's something I think that's she will really value, um, when she's older. And I have tried to share with Brenna some of my wisdom accumulated over all these years, 55 years of being a surviving sibling, including, you know, how I found my way forward.

[00:18:37] Audree: And to that, she's basically asked, is this in our blood ? Because her first thought is, okay, we're, what is her art?

[00:18:44] Maya: Oh my gosh. But I can see why she would say that, right. Or why a child would say that. I think that's great to share. Yeah.

[00:18:50] Audree: Yeah. See, I mean, you know, she thought we're genetically predisposed because she never knew anybody, right.

[00:18:55] Audree: Who had lost a sibling except for me and now twice at our family. So what else could she really conclude? And although I did try to explain to her the, how the two cases really were quite different and, and were unrelated, she didn't believe me. . So I think at some level it really is just easier for her to believe that it was somehow preordained.

[00:19:15] Audree: I'm sure as she gets older, you know, she'll change her, uh, opinion of that. But right now that is what she thinks

[00:19:21] Maya: Right along her journey, she'll evolve. Yeah. Like we all do.

[00:19:25] Audree: Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . So, you know, I received no counseling, as I said, um, earlier and in my previous episodes after my sister's death. And, and some of that was just my parents and some of that was just the time.

[00:19:34] Audree: It was the late sixties. That was before Dr. Phil and Oprah . And, you know, before. before all the self health books and, you know, all, all the wide acceptance of therapy for, for this kind of thing. But, uh, today there's a lot more known. And when I did begin therapy, you know, years after Robin's death, it really did save my life, as I said.

[00:19:54] Audree: But my daughter's, uh, opinion is, was, was really quite advanced. And she embraced counseling and therapy right from the beginning. So she participated in both group and individual grief counseling right away for the family. But, you know, it, it didn't really appear to be as impactful for any of them as I had hoped.

[00:20:10] Audree: I mean, I was so excited by it because it was so important to me. And then it really didn't kind of, uh, do all the things that I thought it would. And there's a few reasons for that. MAA one was that it was, this was during Covid, right? So the grief group was remote. It was taking place over Zoom. And I, I'm not sure that that's the same.

[00:20:28] Audree: I think, you know, I've had a lot of therapy over the years and I'm still in therapy now. But I, you know, for me, It's the, the idea of being in the same room with somebody creates more intimacy and bonding and, and I think there was some limitation, especially for Brenna, you know, sitting in front of a screen.

[00:20:44] Audree: Yeah.

[00:20:44] Maya: Being that young. For sure. Absolutely. I agree with you. There's something about in person, especially when you're dealing with something like loss and grief and, uh, I, it's a deep, and you wanna have a deep topic and you wanna have that connection. I don't know, maybe we're old school, Audree, I don't know, but I, I don , but however you get your therapy go for it.

[00:21:05] Maya: Right.

[00:21:05] Audree: But yeah. Yeah. So, but, but it wasn't, you know, it didn't, didn't work. And, and, and the other reason is, you know, Bree, my daughter, Rena's mother, she didn't really connect to the grief group as much as she had hoped because, you know, it was a group of people that came. by time, right? These are all people that had losses, child losses of children, um, you know, around the same time.

[00:21:25] Audree: But a lot of these people in the group were, were people that lost their children to suicide and drug overdoses. That was the majority. They weren't people that lost their children to cancer the way that she did. And for whatever reason, she basically felt that her grief was different. It wasn't the same, and she just couldn't connect to people.

[00:21:44] Audree: So she felt, uh, isolated from the group, you know? And so there just wasn't a group. That, you know, that had cancer survivors that, I mean, can kids that died of cancer at such a young age, it's just too, it's very rare. So, you know, it wasn't really the best for her. And eventually she, you know, she stopped going.

[00:22:03] Audree: So for Brenda, she did participate in individual grief counseling, um, a little bit further, but again, she was 11. Remember I said she was a young 11. She was that young soul. So she couldn't really embrace it or open it up, and I think she just maybe wasn't ready. So her timeline is still happening, right?

[00:22:21] Audree: She's 13 now, and I'm gonna talk about that. Um, so when she's ready, we'll try again. And I am on heightened alert looking for the signs that she's approaching being ready. And I'm absolutely sure that I will notice it and, and will, you know, set it up at that time. So I would say now, even though both the family and Brenna have participated in therapy, it, it hasn't really, uh, hasn't really met the goals, um, quite yet.

[00:22:45] Audree: But I think, you know, five years from now, I'll have a different story on that. , but

[00:22:49] Maya: I love, and we'll have you back again so you can share that part, . Cause it's a journey like we said. But I really love that you're sharing this so honestly and openly, I mean, that's who you are. That's who we are. Audree . But I think it's important because a lot of you guys listening, like I get messages again, you probably do too, Audree, cuz we're gonna talk about your nonprofit as well.

[00:23:09] Maya: But where people say, you know, oh, I went to therapy, it didn't work for me. Or I went a couple times, it didn't work for me. There's a lot of different reasons why. Not quote unquote working for you at that time. I appreciate you sharing your daughter's experience. I can understand how that, what she'd have difficulty connecting to suicide or drug overdose or, you know, we connect with certain parts of stories, but there was probably only up to a certain point where she was like, okay, but I, you know, went through this journey with my child and struggling with, you know, cancer and it's different.

[00:23:43] Maya: It's different. Um, we don't compare grief fright, but it's different and you wanna connect to a story. So I get that and I appreciate you sharing that with all of us. And also with, you know, Brenna, like you said, she's, you know, she was a young 11 and so sometimes we all process grief at a different pace.

[00:24:02] Maya: And I think that's a big message. Another big message for everyone listening is that just because it's not the right time for you right now, or you didn't find the person that you click with or the group be open to it happening in the future. I think that's a huge message coming

[00:24:15] Audree: from you. . Yeah. And I am, and I am as, again, I'm laser focused on this cuz I, I'll know when she's ready.

[00:24:21] Audree: I know you'll . Yeah. So she's 13 and a half now. It's been almost three years since Hayden's death. She's in the seventh grade and she has struggled with survivor's guilt. Her family is much healthier than mine. And Hayden's presence has been, has not been washed away like Robins. I mean, they talk about him.

[00:24:38] Audree: His place in the family is intact. Uh, there's pictures of him, his artwork and his. All over the place, both in her house and, and in my house. So, you know, she has adjusted better, I would say than than me in, in being an only living child. One thing that Brie did early on was to get her her own dog. So this is Brenna's dog, not a family dog.

[00:24:58] Audree: They already have two family dog. So Brenna went to the animal shelter and picked out her own dog, whose name is Luna, and they really have quite a sweet bond. Luna follows her around, you know, jumps up when she comes home from school. They sleep together. Uh, we pick up Brenna from school once a week, and we have to stop by and get Luna so Luna can come over along with Brenna.

[00:25:18] Audree: So I think it's helped, uh, some with the isolation. Remember, she's a twin. She wasn't used to being alone. Right. And it's been a really big adjustment. And obviously a dog is, you know, can only do what a dog could do, but it has helped. It's a little bit less quiet. You know, she has a, a little bit more interaction with, you know, this, this dog that absolutely loves her.

[00:25:37] Audree: So it's kind of like a sweet love story between a girl and her dog. And I would say that it, that was a good move, um, and a healthy move for Brenna. So, you know, there have been challenges. It would be unrealistic for me to say otherwise and for anybody to expect otherwise. I mean, for me, I was numb and off balance for years and years, but I've, you know, I've watched Brenna looking for unexpected or unhealthy changes and I saw things, I mean, things happened and I wasn't surprised.

[00:26:03] Audree: But everything that happened and everything that we noticed, we reacted quickly. , uh, so to things that maybe were extreme, uh, you know, outside of the bounds of, uh, of being comfortable, maybe something that was scary or inappropriate, we sought help right away, and it really has made a huge difference. So, without going into the details of the kinds of things that I saw, I guess I would, you know, give advice to parents or grandparents who are watching their surviving sibling and maybe seeing them act out in ways, um, that are not right, or maybe, you know, maybe changing some of their habits in ways that you feel are unhealthy at the very first sign of a problem.

[00:26:43] Audree: You need to bring in the cavalry, don't wait for it to get better. It will not get better. So the cavalry can include therapy, medication, treatment programs, whatever it is, you know, do do your research and get help right away. Cuz we did do this and it really did make, uh, quite a big difference. And in having her get over some of these hurdles and be able to carry on and be able to go to school and, and to have some, you know, have, have good, uh, healthy days.

[00:27:10] Audree: So that would really be my, my, my advice. And again, you know, I, I was laser focused on this, so at the first side of a small thing and I jumped on it and I, I'd say that that was, uh, you know, that, that turned out to be good.

[00:27:22] Maya: Right. I think a again, I just, the wisdom that you've already shared with us today on this episode, I think is huge.

[00:27:30] Maya: Again, because these are questions that come up so much and I'm so happy that. Parents are asking these questions and grandparents are asking these questions and they want to know and be there for their surviving sibling or siblings in these situations. And I think what you're saying about, you know, just be aware.

[00:27:46] Maya: Obviously Brenna is young, so we we're not gonna go into all of those details, but you know, your child, you know, your, your grandchild, whatever the relationship is, you know what's out of character. I think I totally get what you're saying there, you know, when they're not coping with something in Right. In the way, right.

[00:28:03] Maya: When it's kind of off the, the train's kind of going off the tracks and whatever that looks like for them. So I love, I love your advice about bringing the cavalry cav and like, let's go. Yeah. And rally around that person and, and lift them up because everybody needs something different. I think that's huge.

[00:28:19] Maya: Yeah. Great.

[00:28:21] Audree: So Hayden and Breta always went to separate schools. So going, I know for me, going back to school after Robin's death was really hard. You know, I had teachers and students that looked at me pitifully, they asked awkward questions, and it was, sure, I found it to be really humiliating. But Hayden and Breta always went to separate schools.

[00:28:38] Audree: And so, uh, and I think a lot of the reason , you know, because I, I was the one who's really kind of pushed for that, was because I wanted them to have their own life, right? Not to be so connected as twins. Um, I thought they had their own school and their own friends, and after school, you know, then they can come back together.

[00:28:53] Audree: So they always went to their own school. So going back to school after Hayden's death was a lot easier for her because nobody knew, nobody knew anything about him, or, and, and they didn't know she was a surviving sibling. So she really, uh, you know, because of that one thing, it eliminated what, what, what, for me was a big pain point and something that she didn't even have to consider.

[00:29:14] Audree: So that for her, that was, that was a good thing. She's changed, she's become a more serious student. And remember, I, you know, talked about part of, well, sibling as being a perfectionist, so she's no longer kind of, you know, content with, you know, BS and she has gotten straight A's this year. Um, and she would settle for no less.

[00:29:31] Audree: So, uh, I was the same way. Went from being sort of very happy-go-lucky to being very driven. So definitely part of the will sibling syndrome, which is not a bad thing. Um, but it is, it is different. And music has taken a more prominent role in her life. And if, if you recall back in my episodes, I talked about, you know, how I played the piano and I really bonded with my sister over that.

[00:29:51] Audree: So, uh, you know, for me it was a, it was a, a very important kind of connection between me and my sister, um, playing, playing the piano. So, uh, for Brenna it's a little bit different cuz they didn't really play any instrument. . But shortly after Hayden's death, Brenna and I, uh, rented cellos and we started to learn how to play together.

[00:30:09] Audree: It was something we could do together. It was a lot of fun. She picked, she chose the cello. That was her, her choice. I was gonna

[00:30:15] Maya: ask him like, how did you guys choose the instrument? Because I'm sure all of you listening are like, okay, if I'm gonna use this as a way to cope in an outlet, how do we choose?

[00:30:24] Maya: So she chose cello. Very

[00:30:26] Audree: interesting. Yeah, she chose cello. I think she, you know, she liked, she liked strings. I think she had braces at the time, so maybe, you know, doing like a wind instrument might have not worked. But yeah, there was a correlation there. Yeah. . Yeah. So, uh, you know, she chose cello. So we, we, we rented cellos, we drove up to the music store and um, you know, she really, uh, she really kind of, took off with it.

[00:30:44] Audree: So she joined the orchestra in school and she was quite serious and motivated. Um, you know, she had other musical endeavors with recorder and other things where she nev didn't take it seriously at all. But she was very serious in practices every day without being reminded or anything, and really has made quite remarkable progress.

[00:31:01] Audree: And this year she got actually invited to play with the seventh and eighth grade district wide honors orchestra where they plucked us a few kids from each of the middle schools and put them together into a, uh, honors orchestra. So for her, you know, it was a huge, um, you know, self-esteem boost. So the music has been really important and I just believe that music and arts can just play a prominent role in managing grief.

[00:31:23] Audree: So for Brenna, you know, she's that young, uh, 13, um, expressing herself in, in words has been difficult. But music is a different kind of expression and it's easier for. as maybe drawing or painting could be for somebody else, you know, depending on what their creative outlet of choice, you know, would be. So I really, uh, I really see music as being, uh, you know, a healing and a healthy form of expression.

[00:31:49] Audree: So one thing we did, um, was we wrote a song. We wrote an original song. We call it the sib song. And it's a duet. It's a viola cello duet. So as I started to learn cello with her, I also, uh, learned viola at the same time in parallel. So I've, I'm playing the viola, she's playing the cello. And so we compose the song together.

[00:32:08] Audree: And, uh, you know, the, the purpose, uh, you know, the intent of the song was to express musically, uh, her and Hayden growing up together. That's, that's what the, the song tells the story of, and we have performed it a couple of times. So we incorporated it, uh, into her bat Mitzvah ceremony. She's 13 and a half, so she recently had a bat mitzvah, and we played our duet as part of that.

[00:32:30] Audree: And then we also participated in an open mic night called The Final Curtain, a virtual Open Mic on Death, dying and Grief. So it was, uh, various, various, uh, people performing, artistic, uh, in different ways, um, as part of an open mic. So we, we did it for that. And, uh, it was really quite successful, I think, I think people really could relate to the story and relate to the song.

[00:32:52] Audree: Um, just for, you know, fyi, other kinds of performances on the open mic included, uh, quite a bit of poetry, you know, that people had written some singing. There was a clarinet performance and there was quite, there was some dance, a couple, a couple of dance. Um, People that were doing, I think modern Dance was one.

[00:33:08] Audree: So it was, uh, you know, a lot of, a lot of different stuff, I think. And it was, uh, very, very interesting. And, uh, I think we really, we really enjoyed, uh, that, so we'll, we'll put a link, uh, on the show notes to our, to our sip song. And I think when you listen to it, you'll, you'll hear kind of the, there's, you know, the two lines.

[00:33:25] Audree: There's the viola line and the cello line that represent the two children, Brenna and Hayden, um, growing up. And you, you kind of almost close your eyes and sort of sense the story of, of them growing up in this song. So I would like, uh, would like to, uh, to share that. And Brenna has, uh, actively been using, uh, my nonprofits, um, flagship applications, sipps that we are going to talk about.

[00:33:47] Audree: I did speak at length about it in episode five, uh, from last season. But in a nutshell, sipps is an online memory book. So it's a secure platform, something that I wrote myself. Doesn't use Facebook or any other, uh, social media platform. So it's something I wrote myself since I'm a techie and its purpose is to chronicle memories, uh, of, of siblings of the surviving sibling, uh, chronicling their memories by telling stories, posting pictures, posting videos, optionally content, you know, can be shared with friends or family or the SIPPS Forever community.

[00:34:24] Audree: So you can invite your friends and family to your, your SIPPS Forever account. And they can either, you can invite them so that they can help collaborate and add content, or you can invite them just to look and comment on things. So Brenna has created her sips forever. I call it a sip site, um, to honor and document and memorialize her bond with Hayden.

[00:34:47] Audree: So she looked through all of her pictures and videos on her phone. Uh, she went out to her family Google Drive and online photo albums and chose. A bunch of pictures and videos to upload. It's unlike me. Cause back in the sixties we didn't have those things, so I had to take pictures of pictures. She had tons of things to choose from.

[00:35:04] Audree: Right, right. ,

[00:35:06] Maya: totally different time. Yeah.

[00:35:08] Audree: Yeah. So she, uh, you know, she could just click and, and upload things and she, you know, she started to write her personal story and there's a, there's a diary or a journal, uh, feature on sipps forever, and she's written a couple of, a couple of entries and she uploaded the SI song, our, our duet that I spoke of.

[00:35:27] Audree: Um, and I uploaded that letter. For her that she, that she wrote to Hayden. So it's, it's a place for all that stuff. All tho all those memories, all those artifacts that, you know, that, that are memories of her and Hayden together that she can look at over the years, all in one place, she can selectively choose people to share it with or not share it with.

[00:35:47] Audree: And so I think, I think for her it's been, uh, it's, it's really been very, you know, very healthy. One of the things that SIPPS Forever has is a, a timeline, kind of like a Facebook timeline or wall so she can go ahead and, you know, add things to that, you know, as events come up or new memories come up. Um, you know, and, and so she's, she started to do that.

[00:36:09] Audree: So

[00:36:09] Maya: I have to, I have to ask you before we continue to move on, I have a couple questions for you, Audree. Sure. So is she, is Brenna your youngest member right now on Sims

[00:36:19] Audree: Yeah, I think she is. There are other teenagers. But, but, but not, not as you as, or, because, you know, it's, I don't know that a 13 year old could actually.

[00:36:28] Audree: Go out and, you know, do it all by themselves. They would really make

[00:36:31] Maya: someone for sex. Yeah. They need a little help. Little help, right. From mom or dad or grandma like you. Right. So little help there. And so I wanted to ask, because when we talked about the site before, we talked about the functionality, I, I love it.

[00:36:44] Maya: I love how it, you can make it private and if you just want it to be for yourself, that's totally cool. If you want to use it to connect with other people and share the story of your brother or sister or siblings that you've lost, you can do that as well. Um, or like you said, select the people that you wanna share it with.

[00:37:00] Maya: So it's really personalized for you and your experience and what you're comfortable with. And it's secure. It's not like Facebook or um, Instagram where it's going out to everybody. So I, again, I think this is genius and I had to ask if Brennan's your youngest user, but I think it's great that it's, it's okay for, for teens to, to jump

[00:37:19] Audree: on there.

[00:37:20] Audree: Yeah. And there are other teens. So there, there was another grandmother, quite, quite surprisingly, and I I mentioned this another time that we spoke, you know, that a grandmother had reached out to me, um, and wanted her grandchildren to, uh, you know, to, to use it. They had lost, um, they, they had lost a sim to, uh, to, to, um, you know, fentanyl overdose, um, situation.

[00:37:41] Audree: It was very, it was very sad. And so, uh, you know, so e even in that case, they were a little bit older than Brennan, but it, it took an adult to. Pushed them in the direction. Like, you know, they didn't, they didn't necessarily, um, I don't know that they would've found it themselves. You know, these kinds of resources are really difficult to find.

[00:38:00] Audree: Um, and so I, you know, I think, I think for, for that reason, that it might be difficult for somebody that young or even anybody to find it, since I'm, since I mentioned this, I, I do wanna talk just to say one thing about, uh, another project that, uh, that I'm working on that's kind of coming out of CIS

[00:38:18] Audree: I mean, you know, cuz it, so CIS Forever is a non-profit company, right? It's not, it's not really the memory book. So the flagship application is cis, that online memory book. But there'll be other applications that the company CIS Forever or the nonprofit puts out. So one of the things that I learned when I was finished with, uh, with at least the first version of cis and wanted it to be a resource that people could find.

[00:38:43] Audree: That was easier said than done , right? Oh, yeah. Yeah. Because there are resources out there, but they're very, very difficult to find. And so what people do is they typically go to a search engine and, you know, they start typing things in, but that's really not successful either. You, you'd have to keep kind of refining your search and clicking and then, you know, refining it further.

[00:39:07] Audree: And, and people that are looking for resources aren't necessarily, uh, in a place where they can, they can drill down that way. And, and, and webpages really aren't the right way. That these things aren't really webpages. Right. My, my, um, application is an application, yours is a podcast. There's Facebook groups and videos and, and really, search engines don't do well with that.

[00:39:29] Audree: And they, the big thing that they don't do well with is evaluating the quality of a result, right? They give you all these links. They could be stale, there could be disinformation, they could be, you know, like 20 years ago. So, You know, one of the things that has to happen is there has to be a better way to find things and a way for, uh, for programmatically, you know, automatically the quality of the result to be evaluated.

[00:39:55] Audree: So in terms of timeliness and whether it's relevant and whether the source is really in authority or just, you know, somebody spewing this information, is it accurate? Does it match what you really are looking for? And so I decided I would take that problem on. It's actually a very, very large problem, but there's lots of resources out there.

[00:40:13] Audree: You can't find them. There's lots of lists of resources. A lot of them contain stale, outdated, outdated old links, manually maintaining these, as many organizations do. You know, you go and they have a list of resources that's really not workable. So my idea was to write a Yelp like application for online resources beginning with grief and loss.

[00:40:33] Audree: So I would use artificial intelligence and web scraping. So I'd scrape all the stuff and then using artificial intelligence be able to do that evaluation of the quality and the match to what a person would be looking for. So it's basically gonna be an application where you can ask for a resource, uh, let's say on, on surviving siblings or sibling loss, and it would accurately pinpoint relevant and appropriate resources and return those to you.

[00:41:00] Audree: And then there'd be a Yelp like piece to it where you could go ahead and rate the resource and you know, and write a little review. And that would come up too, so that somebody else could see that. And be able to decide whether it's a resource that they, they want to use. So I do have the u r URL online

[00:41:18] Audree: Not live or anything, but it's in development. And I'm, I'm just gonna ask her like, can we, can

[00:41:22] Maya: we share the website? Okay. Perfect. So we can, but it will eventually be up and running. And can you guys tell Audree is our resident techie here? ? Yeah. The surviving Civic group. I love it. No, thanks for explaining that.

[00:41:35] Maya: And this is so needed because you are spot on with this. And I know we talked about this when we've gone live and stuff before, but this needs to be in this episode. Just so all of you listening know what Audree is saying is so accurate. I was not in the state of mind when I that, that I could navigate these websites when I first lost my brother.

[00:41:57] Maya: Most of us are not. If you are, I commend you to go, like, roll our sleeves up and like Google the resources and go on every single one of these, you know, nonprofit or resource pages or you know, or the, like you said, the podcast or wherever we're going. And actually look for whether it's an episode you're looking for that you wanna relate to, or whether you're looking for a specific grief group, right?

[00:42:20] Maya: If you've lost a, a sibling young, there's specific groups for that. If you've lost a sibling in adulthood, there's specific groups for that. So I think this is so genius because I kind of just gave up and felt like I was totally alone for a long time, as you guys know from my story. And so when you first shared this with me, uh, Audree, I was just elated that you're doing this and taking on more for our community.

[00:42:43] Maya: So thank you for doing that. And again, tell us the link one more time. I know it will be active

[00:42:47] Audree: in the future, but tell us. Yes, it will. So it's online. It's online So one word online So, um, . Yeah, because I hear all the time, just like you do Maya, that people say, well, you know, there's nothing, there's nothing for siblings.

[00:43:03] Audree: And it is, it's simply not true. What they're saying is, I can't find anything for siblings. Right. That's what they're saying. It's not that there's nothing, cuz there there are thing, but there they, they really are almost impossible to, to find it any kind of a, you know, a repeatable way. I mean, you couldn't even tell somebody how to find them.

[00:43:22] Audree: Right. You know, it's, it's kind of ad hoc, like here, look at the, it's so, yeah. So it really is a, you know, it turns out that that's, that's really the problem that needs to be solved. There's more books are written, more podcasts are recorded, and more applications are written, making sure people can find them when they really need them.

[00:43:39] Audree: So that's, that's, uh, that's the problem I'm working on. I am a techie as, as, uh, Maya said. And, um, you know, it's a very interesting problem, but it's really, I think, a problem that, uh, needs to be solved for this. You know, for this community. And then, you know, it's gonna begin with this community, it's gonna begin with, uh, you know, with sibling resources.

[00:43:57] Audree: Then hopefully grow to other, uh, kinds of resources that people, you know, people will ask for. So that's, that's what I'm working on. Um, you know, again, a big project is not, there is a page that will come up when you go to online, but it won't, it won't be live. But we're gonna

[00:44:14] Maya: include it because we want you guys to continue to follow as Audree goes along with this and starts with us.

[00:44:20] Maya: So thank you for starting with Surviving Cibs and you know, grief because this is, this is needed just like you mentioned. I wanna go back just for a second and then we'll, we'll keep tracking along. Um, Audree up two Brenna and you and the cello and that experience, what advice can you give? Cause I think it's really a beautiful thing and you guys were gonna actually play at the end of the episode, so after we conclude, you'll actually get to hear the song.

[00:44:46] Maya: So little gift for you there as well. But what advice would you give Audree to again, a parent, grandparent, you know, someone. Has a child that's not a talker, which, that's not me. I'm a talker. So , that's how I express myself. But most people are not like that. You're right. They express themselves in different ways.

[00:45:06] Maya: So if they have an artistically inclined child right, or someone that would lean that way, whether it's, I love how you said it can be painting or drawing or even writing poetry or all these different things, but the music, how did you, I mean, she picked the cello, but how did you identify that? Because again, I know you've been through this experience, but what advice can you give and can you just touch on that a little bit so Sure.

[00:45:30] Audree: To you? Yeah, so I mean, I think, you know, the first thing that I, I've thought of exploring was, you know, is there some kind of artistic medium, like, you know, like painting or coloring? But she, Brett is just not really an artistic person in that way. She never really was , so I just didn't, I didn't see that, you know, that, that, that working for her.

[00:45:51] Audree: And you know, the music. It's not like we're really that like a super musical family, but we, we do enjoy music. I mean, I've played the piano my whole life. She did do some things on the recorder and, and she always was that, you know, she was always that kid that liked to bang drums, you know, she, she preferred to do that than to draw.

[00:46:09] Audree: So for her, it seemed like music would be a better match, and if it wasn't, then I would've tried something else. So, you know, I, she knows that I, you know, I have a piano and she knows that I like music. So for me to go to her and suggest that we learned to play a musical instrument together was not something that was, you know, that she found to be weird.

[00:46:28] Audree: She thought, wow, that's cool. You know, that's, that, that's something I can do. So, um, yeah, but if, so I tried it. Um, you know, I didn't know whether it'd be successful, so, uh, but I would've tried something else if it wasn't. She really needed some way to, to express herself that wasn't verbal. I mean, that part I think was, was very clear to me.

[00:46:48] Audree: But I have to say , that it has been so much fun learning how to play cello with her. I mean, it's been like a toe blast. So in addition to being expression, you know, it's something that we're doing together, right? We're navigating learning cello together, and it's, it's really, uh, just fun for both of us. We both look forward to it.

[00:47:05] Maya: And I think that's beautiful and I think that's also a really beautiful message. But I just wanted to make sure we kind of gave that advice to all of you guys listening or wanting to help someone express themselves in their own way. Because not everybody is, you know, gonna do a podcast or start a nonprofit or start an application or a recess or resource page.

[00:47:23] Maya: And everyone's gonna handle it differently and move at a different pace and express themselves in different ways. But yeah, I can tell you're having fun. So much fun that you wanted to learn another instrument, Audree, that's so you, , that's so you, well, sibling syndrome is still at it, right? So it's why we, it's so important.

[00:47:41] Maya: We talked about this today. So yeah, I just wanted to touch on that because again, I think it's wonderful what you guys have done. And again, you guys will hear the song at the end of the episode. Yeah, I think that's,

[00:47:50] Audree: Yeah. So, yeah, I think once you have Wells Sibling syndrome, you, you know, you don't, you don't like get over it.

[00:47:56] Audree: It's Right. It's like, it's like, it's like, it's like a, it's like a permanent thing. And that idea of putting, you know, being that perfectionist and always going driving for one more thing, like one instrument wasn't enough. Yeah. That's, that's exactly part of, uh, part, part of the syndrome. So, um, but she has had a, a very good time with sipps forever, and I think for her having all that stuff there, even she is enjoying it now, but I think it's, it's gonna even be more meaningful, you know, for her later.

[00:48:23] Audree: Like when I first did my SIP site and I again had to take pictures of pictures and I didn't obviously have any, any, um, any video. But I did put a few videos up there that, you know, at least of me and my brother talking about my, my sister. But I really do enjoy going back and, and, and looking at them and.

[00:48:43] Audree: Kind of reliving some of the things, you know, the adventures that we had. And, and, and even, you know, looking at the pictures sometimes will prompt me to, to wanna write something if I, if I do get sort of a memory. And so having it in one place and, and being able to, uh, you know, enjoy looking at it and maybe refining it and inviting other people to who, who might have known in, in her case, Hayden, um, to, to look at it.

[00:49:06] Audree: It's, it's really, uh, I think really great over time. So, one of the things, um, you know, that I did, you know, I, as I said, I've been in therapy a long time, and I did have that seething, anger, anger that I talked about, that's part of the will sibling, uh, syndrome and, and, and unbelievable survivor's guilt. So, uh, my therapist suggested that I, I write a letter to Robin.

[00:49:28] Audree: That would potentially minimize that anger, or at least, and that guilt, you know, at least talk about it. At least, you know, tell her how I felt. Tell her, tell her about it. And so, uh, I did, I did upload it to my, uh, to my, to my, my sip site, which I have, uh, you know, with, with, um, me and Robin. So I was gonna, I was gonna share it with you.

[00:49:48] Audree: It's, you know, it's a personal letter, but it, it'll give you an idea of the kind of thing that, you know, maybe, maybe you could do. I mean, obviously Brenna wrote Hayden, Hayden a letter. Um, and this letter, even though I never got a chance to say it to Robin, it's for her. And I have to believe that. . She has heard it.

[00:50:05] Audree: So, um, let, lemme go ahead and I believe she has,

[00:50:08] Maya: I believe she has Audree. So tell us. I can't wait to hear this. I love that you're sharing this with us. Oh my gosh, thank you so much. When did you, cause I know you've been in therapy and it's been such a big part, and again, you've talked about it season two episodes four and five and how life-changing.

[00:50:24] Maya: And I always talk about how life-changing therapy was and has been and will continue probably to be for the rest of my life. When did you write this letter,

[00:50:33] Audree: just to give us some context? Yeah. So, so when, when Hayden, I mean, when Hayden first got sick, I mean, I was so busy kind of focused on the clinical trial and including Brenna, everything I like, I didn't even feel like any, you know, anything I, I, I just basically froze, right.

[00:50:52] Audree: And I was just, yeah. My head was down and I was trying to do all these things I wanted, you know, I needed to be there for my daughter who's gonna lose a child. I had already watched my mother lose a child, so, you know, I. , you know, I, I was just really like, just, I was just like in motoring through. But after he passed, you know, then it was like this, everything was just triggered.

[00:51:12] Audree: Like, I just was, I almost like, you know, I could, I could barely get outta bed. I mean, it was so bad. I mean, I just felt like I was back at 12 years old, back just learning that, that Robin had died. I felt like I had failed her. I failed Hayden. I wasn't, you know, it was just so terrible. So I went, I, I started back in therapy and, you know, in the beginning I, you know, really just had to

[00:51:32] Audree: I just had to like, you know, get, get a lot of, a lot of that triggering, uh, dealt with so that I could ba, you know, I could basically be okay and, you know, start to enjoy some of my days. Again. It was just very, very difficult. So, as I. Got healthier. We talked about all these things, you know, that, that I was going through and what it was like back, you know, back in when Robin died, what it's like now.

[00:51:56] Audree: You know, she would give me assignments and so she gave, she's given me many assignments. She's really, my therapist likes assignments and I like to write. So it's a good match. So, you know, she gave, she gave me, uh, you know, many assignments to, you know, write about how I felt about this and what could I have done differently, really, uh, you know, and what was it like to be 12 years old and in that situation?

[00:52:15] Audree: So I, I mean, I wrote a lot of, and as, and, and I, and I did start to feel better. But you know this, if it's a long process, you don't get rid of the anger and the sadness, you know, right away. And so at some point she said, you know what? You had, you had Brenna right? Hating a letter. Why don't you write Robin a letter?

[00:52:37] Audree: and she actually suggested that I, you know, that I put it into some kind of like a little bottle and send it up with a balloon. I didn't do that. Um, but she did suggest that, because, you know, for me it really wouldn't have meant anything. But, um, you know, I, I did, I did write it and I did read it out loud to Robin, just like, I'm going to read it out loud to you.

[00:52:54] Audree: And I felt that, uh, you know, that, that, that she hurt me. And, um, you know, it was comforting to me. So it was part of a bunch of assignments. But I'd say it was, it was, uh, as I was at least, uh, feeling like I understood myself better and why I, you know, why I was, uh, why I basically had, had backtracked the way that I had.

[00:53:14] Audree: And with all this emotion that I, you know, every time I thought I was getting seriously though, my, every time over the years in therapy, I would say, okay, I'm not angry anymore. And then something would happen and I would say, no, I'm still angry. Yep. And then years, years later, it'd be okay, I'm not angry anymore.

[00:53:28] Audree: And then something would happen and say, no, I'm still angry. So, you know, I went back to therapy and it was like, I told her, I said, I'm sure I'm not angry anymore. And then we talked and it was like, you know what, I'm still really angry. , right.

[00:53:42] Maya: that kinda, you know, come, come to you know yourself moment and you're like, okay, I'm, I'm still angry.

[00:53:49] Maya: Like, let's work on this. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Really being honest with yourself.

[00:53:52] Audree: Yeah. So it's, it's, it's, it's a long, long road, you know, to get rid of that kind of, that kind of guilt and the anger. It's just, it's so deep seated that, you know, you can, you can sort of carve off a little piece, shave off a piece and feel like you've made progress, but it's, there's still so much there that you still have to work on.

[00:54:10] Audree: Right, right. So the, the, so, so the writing was really, was really helpful. So, as I mentioned, um, in the beginning I did see a medium, and I referred to this in the letter, so that's why I'm mentioning it here. But, um, I did see a medium and, uh, you know, the medium. put this really sweet picture in my head of Hayden and, and Robin growing up together.

[00:54:29] Audree: So, uh, you know, that was, that was in my mind that I really liked that picture. So my letter goes like this. Dear Robin, when I re-listened to the session I had with the medium back in December of 2021, she said that you and Hayden were growing up together and the years separating the two of you didn't matter.

[00:54:48] Audree: I love the picture that this creates in my mind for most of my life, I've been guilty about how I treated you when we were sisters here on earth. I pushed the guilt away for many years, but it never went away. And I'm sorry, Robin, that I didn't show you the tolerance and love and compassion when you were struggling.

[00:55:08] Audree: But truthfully, I didn't even know what those things were back then. Our parents were not the best ones to model these traits. They were so inexperienced and damaged themselves. They tried hard to get you to have friends, but they never suggested that we become friends. I didn't even know how to be a friend and I struggled with being friendless myself.

[00:55:28] Audree: Fifth grade was a nightmare for me, as I'm sure you remember. I'm sure I took some of that out on you. I lived in the same house as you. I saw the same dysfunction and patience and cruelty as you did, but I didn't have the tools or the maturity to rise above it as a child. But I am sure that had we grown into adulthood together, we would've overcome all of this and become true sisters and best friends.

[00:55:52] Audree: We would've understood each other in a way that no one else ever could, and I would've loved that. I struggled with guilt and self-loathing over this for more years than I care to count. Recently, I have acquired a new level of understanding and I genuinely wanna get past this guilt, be able to close my eyes and feel your love.

[00:56:11] Audree: I built my nonprofit sipps forever for us. . I don't have a lot of memories, but I have deep emotions and longings, which I will continue to explore. And I know in my heart that you understand and forgave me long ago. And Robin, take care of my sweet warrior grandson, hated and know that I love you both very, very much.

[00:56:34] Audree: Oh my gosh. Woo. This has got,

[00:56:37] Maya: this is off to an emotional season, Audree. Oh my gosh. It takes a lot to get tears on my eyes, but ugh. That was beautiful. That was beautiful. I feel like Robin heard you again, right now. So I think this is a beautiful exercise to do and I think, you know, tell me yourself, like were you surprised at some of the things that came out when you were writing this beautiful note and was it kind of just flowing out of you?

[00:57:07] Maya: Tell us a little bit about your

[00:57:08] Audree: experience with that. Yeah, so the, you know, the assignment was basically to write her a letter. and be totally, you know, honest and transparent with, with how I felt. And I was pretty well aware of them that I was, you know, still angry and still, still pretty guilty. So, so yeah, it, it came pretty quick because I think it was all there.

[00:57:26] Audree: I mean, you know, I don't have a lot of memories, as I said, um, you know, I was 12, but when you look back, you know, you, when you, when you're an adult and you look back at 12, you wish you had done, but I couldn't. And I wanted her to know that I couldn't. But, you know, it does. It didn't mean that things hatchie grown up.

[00:57:45] Audree: Of course, we would be, we, we would be close, we would be, we would be the sisters that, you know, that I always wanted. I mean, I've missed her every day since, since she's been gone. But to be able to write it and to, and to read it to her and know that, that she heard me and that she's with Hayden, you know, my sweet, my sweet grandson, Hayden, you know, was, was, uh, it was very important to me.

[00:58:04] Audree: And I, I did feel kind of a, a sense of relief and I just felt better that, you know, that I was better understood. Yeah.

[00:58:13] Maya: And we've talked about seeing a medium, cuz both of us have done that. And I agree with you. I think it can be exceptionally healing. It can bring you a sense of. , uh, peace and just a another piece of the puzzle of being able to move forward.

[00:58:27] Maya: Cause we never move on, you know, many years later you're, you're talking about Robin and you know, Brennan will talk about Hayden and you'll talk about Hayden for many years to come and for the rest of your life. And we know that. But I think, you know, we, again, we've talked about this before and we've talked about it on this podcast many times.

[00:58:45] Maya: I think a medium, if you're open to it and it aligns with what you believe in and you picked it carefully because you wanna make sure you're going to someone very credible. I was like, the disclaimer. It can be so helpful. It was very helpful for me as I've shared and you have shared as well in past episodes and, and in this episode as well.

[00:59:02] Maya: And I, I really love that, that you've got that image

[00:59:05] Audree: and that was, I love that. I mean that picture of the two of them together, cuz she said, you know, she, she, she was a very good medium and she, she visualized Robin one clothes from the sixties and Hayden, she said, the time, the time doesn't, you know, the time doesn't matter, right?

[00:59:18] Audree: It just, it just doesn't matter. You know, the two children. Of the same age basically growing, growing up together. And, you know, I just felt, I just felt so good. Um, you know, with with, with that, with that picture in my head. So, uh, I am gonna go back. I haven't gone back to see her, but I am gonna, uh, I did reach out to her.

[00:59:37] Audree: Um, and so I am gonna schedule another, another session with her and see if she has some additional pictures for me to Yeah. Be, I'm sure.

[00:59:45] Maya: Cause they're together and they're growing together. Yeah. And I think, you know, I don't know if you realize that you're bringing up another incredible point here, Audree, but, you know, time is different.

[00:59:56] Maya: I, and I believe this fully, but you know, time is a concept here on Earth that we have, right. And then when you pass over on the other side, I don't know, I'm not, you know, whatever you believe in God, universe, whatever it is, but. I connect so much when you tell me that story about going to see the medium and that they're actually growing together wherever they are.

[01:00:17] Maya: Somewhere beautiful. I know, but depending on your beliefs, you know, some people think heaven, some people think, you know, there's another life, whatever. I just think that that's a really amazing thing to understand too, that you know, we have this concept of time, but when you move on and you move, you know, when you pass away, there's a different kind of concept.

[01:00:37] Maya: And the fact that she was able to give you that gift to talk about that, ugh. I just love

[01:00:41] Audree: that part of your story. I think it's awesome. That's why I wanna go back. She doesn't see. , anybody, you know, beyond, you can't go back before a year. So, you know, you have to wait a full year. It's been more than a year, but not that much more.

[01:00:52] Audree: So, uh,

[01:00:53] Maya: I'm glad you brought that up, because that is a common thing with mediums who are talking to you about the passing of someone, especially when it's quite recent, because there needs to be time for both you and that person that has passed away to, you know, you both have to have time. Like you can't just go see a medium like every week and like, it's not, it's not therapy, it's not like that.

[01:01:15] Maya: So I'm so glad you brought that up. That's huge. That's why you'll also know, like if there's someone really legitimate, because they're not gonna ask you to come back all the time. There's a lot of signs, but that's one of them. They're, they want you to move forward with your life and then, you know, the ones that you've lost will continue to move forward.

[01:01:31] Maya: And it's about reconnecting and, and hearing what you need to. .

[01:01:35] Audree: That's right. So she said people come back, you know, sometimes after a year, sometimes after five years. But, but, but you're right. It's, you know, you have to reach a different point so that there's something, you know, something that she'll be able to tell you about this new, new time.

[01:01:47] Audree: Yeah,

[01:01:48] Maya: exactly. I think, again, I'm so glad we talked about that, Andre, tell us a little bit about sipps. Uh, we've talked about SIPS forever. You guys need to go on SIPPS I'm there, you'll find me there. You'll find Audree there and lots of surviving siblings there and families. But tell us a little bit about, we talked about, you know, the, the functionalities and you know what we can do there.

[01:02:10] Maya: Tell us, are, are there any future plans that you wanna share with us or anything else to kind of wrap up the conversation about sips Anything else, any tidbits you wanna share with us besides your resource website, which I'm so excited about too.

[01:02:23] Audree: So I am working on online I have a whole, a whole set of, uh, new functionality I would love to do for, for sipps

[01:02:30] Audree: But it's probably not gonna happen until after online resources. Cause I really feel like. That problem needs to be solved first. I agree. So, so that, so that all these things, uh, all these things can be found, but I really wanna encourage people to go out there. It's free, it's a nonprofit, you know, it'll always be there.

[01:02:47] Audree: I'm a, you know, I am a computer person with a background in, in privacy and security, so there'll never be any leaks or data stolen or any of that stuff that you read about. It's really easy. Just go out there and create your account and simple to upload. Um, if you have any questions or anything, any feedback of any sort, just reach out to me.

[01:03:07] Audree: There's a button to, to, uh, for contact me or, you know, contact, you know, sipps forever. But that goes directly to me. So, um, you should feel free to do that. I respond to everything. I'm, I'm very responsive. Uh, so I just would welcome everybody out there and, and just give it a, give it a. .

[01:03:24] Maya: Absolutely. I agree. I think it's, I just love what you've done and I'm so glad that you're, you're back on this season and sharing and you were able to share a little bit more in depth about Brenna's Journey and Hayden's journey and also this, this journey for more resources and obviously sips

[01:03:41] Audree: and the, and, and the sip song that you're gonna, that,

[01:03:44] Maya: that, that and the sip song that we're gonna close out with.

[01:03:47] Maya: And before we do that, Audree, so obviously they can find you sips It will be linked here and also on every single episode because we wanna thank Audree for supporting season three. You're incredible. I just appreciate your support so much and I'm sure all of you do as well. So we can tell all these incredible stories for season three.

[01:04:06] Maya: Andre, is there anything else you want to add in this episode before we close out with this incredible song with you and Brenna?

[01:04:13] Audree: No, but I just, I just wanna say, you know how much I've enjoyed, uh, recording the podcast with you, Maya. I think what you're doing. You know, really, really is important. I want your resources to be able to be found easily.

[01:04:24] Audree: Um, but what you're doing, you know, what you're, what you're doing is great. And I actually am looking forward to continuing to work with you, you know, maybe with some workshopping or whatever. As we do, I have a feeling that you and I will be together in, in various ways going forward, um, you know, in helping this community in every way that we can.

[01:04:41] Audree: I

[01:04:41] Maya: agree, Audree, we've, we've done some work and we've, we've started it, but we've got more to do and a long way to go. We wanna keep telling these stories and keep helping all of you surviving siblings out there. So, We're gonna turn it over to this beautiful, beautiful song and it's called The Sib song,

[01:04:59] Audree: right?

[01:04:59] Audree: That's That's right. It's the sib song, A Story of Hayden and Brenna Story

[01:05:04] Maya: of Hayden and Brenna. And it is by Brenna and, and you. So yes, I will turn it over to that. And thank you so much for being here again, Audree, we appreciate you so much here at the Surviving Siblings

[01:05:15] Audree: Podcast. Ah, thank you Maya. I really enjoyed this, uh, recording this session.

[01:05:19] Audree: It's been,

[01:07:06] Maya: 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 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. Remember to rate, review and subscribe to the podcast.

[01:07:29] Maya: And don't forget to follow us on all social media platforms. We're on Instagram, Twitter, 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 for the support. Until the next episode, keep on surviving my surviving siblings.

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