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The Sibling Connection
The Nest of the Loneliness Birds


     In some parts of the world, such as the high mountain plains of South America, and parts of desert Africa, "nests" of stones are found. How is it possible that such smooth, round stones, which are normally found in rivers at much lower elevations, could be high on a mountain or in a desert, where there are no rivers? A primitive myth explains the phenomenon.

     The myth says that these are the nests of the loneliness birds. These birds live at high altitudes and are usually seen in silhouette, as they scan the earth, searching for a place to lay their eggs. The stones, lying together in a sandy soil, look so much like smooth eggs. You are tempted to pick one up, and when you do, you find they are heavy--just like the heaviness we feel in our hearts when we are grieving.

     When a loved one dies, so the story goes, the loneliness birds lay their stone eggs in your heart. You can feel them there, weighing you down, and you live with them for a long time. You become used to carrying this burden within you, and gradually, you grow strong.

      Then, one day, you wake up, and something has changed. The sun is shining, and the sky is clear blue. You look around and seem to see your surroundings with new eyes, as if you have been gone for a long time. Even the most mundane objects around you seem to be full of meaning. And you feel light on your feet. Some stories say that, during the night, the loneliness birds came and took their stone eggs, and flew away. Others say that each of the stone eggs has hatched into life, and that when each egg has hatched, the nest is empty, and the heart becomes light.

     This story is talking about the capacity of the human spirit to heal, and to grow through grieving. Where there was once suffering, there is now meaning, soul, a depth to life that was not appreciated before. The idea that the heaviness of the eggs hatches or turns in to something else suggests that grief is creative, creating significant change in the mourner.

      Many adults who experienced the death of a sibling early in life say that the experience changed them profoundly. They appreciate relationships more, appreciate life more, feel closer to God, and are able to listen to and be with others who are grieving. Adults who lose a brother or sister as an adult say they are also changed. They feel humbled, vulnerable, more aware of the fragility of life. Often, they find their way to a more religious or spiritual way of viewing the world.


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