Support for surviving siblings

Support for surviving siblings

TOWER GROVE EAST – Losing a family member to gun violence without subsequent support and coping resources is quite prevalent in the black community.

Cheeraz Gormon, who lost her younger brother to gun violence, says, “No more.”

Stricken with uniquely overwhelming and untreated grief, she founded the Sibling Support Network, which she began working on the day after her brother’s untimely death in 2013. SSN officially launched in 2016.

Its mission is to assist individuals in the healing the mental and emotional wounds brought on by the violent loss of a blood related or fictive kin (“chosen family member”) sibling, by providing resources and spaces for individuals to live whole, again.

“Those of us who lose our siblings to a violent crime are oftentimes overlooked, and in many cases, we get pushed to shoulder various responsibilities, leaving us to suffer in silence,” said Gormon.

Gormon, Founder and President of SSN, said she’s in a good space now – of sorts – but it wasn’t until 2018, almost six years later, that she finally started feeling like herself again.

“I don’t think there will ever be a moment where I am fully healed because it is a process,” she said during a recent interview with the NorthSider.

Gormon sometimes gets what she calls “grief spurts” brought on by the sight of someone that reminds her of her brother, perhaps a likened gait, a cadence, or a song.

Personal insight into grief, coping and healing, like Gormon’s, is sought in the SSN’s “Loss of Sibling to Violence Survey. Offered to people at least 18 years of age, the survey investigates the effects of losing a sibling, blood related or fictive kin, to violent crime.

The Network first launched the survey in 2017 and subsequently revised and relaunched it in 2018. The goal is to get 3,000 people nationwide to take the survey by May 2020.

Gormon, who has nearly given up an accomplished advertising copywriting career to run the network fulltime, will travel to various cities. The survey, however, is now available at www.siblingsupportnetwork.org.

“I refuse to be a focus group of one,” Gormon says.

“I want to know what people are going through, so it’s time to find out what people are going through. This is one of many ways to start making the necessary changes in our communities, institutions, and systems.”

On the website are postings of the Network’s series of Sibling Support Community Meet Ups, where the public can attend to learn about the Network.

Dr. Brittany Conners, an occupational therapist, attended one of the meet ups so that she learn could more important questions to ask her clients, many of whom are incarcerated.

“She’s [Gormon] filling a huge gap in our community,” said Conners, who volunteers for the Network. “Our communities are hurting from violent crime and siblings are affected in unique ways.”

And as the saying goes, “hurt people, hurt people,” asserts Gormon, who is using data from surveys analyze connections between violent sibling-loss and other behavioral and public health concerns.

She’s eyeing the relationship between the losing a family member and high school dropout and incarceration rates, STDs and STIs and other concerns.

“When I start looking at violence in our community – I’m not doubting at all that that is connected to having lost a sibling violently. And we need to start looking at how that contributes to behaviors.”

Marvin Crumer said it took him 20 years to even talk about the violent death of his brother, Derrick, until he met to interview with Gormon, a longtime friend.

“It is not easy to share my grief with everyone, but sharing it with someone who has gone through the same grief made it a lot more comfortable,” said Crumer, Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Dellwood.

The Network is important, he said, “Because we need to be able to share our stories.”