How it really feels when your sibling moves away from home

In honor of National Siblings Day, one of our contributors got real about what it feels like when your sibling grows up and moves out of the house. Let’s just say, it’s a lot to process.

I am one of two siblings and I am the oldest by one year and three months. I’m 21 and my not so little brother, (he’s 6ft 5in) is 20, so even though that’s not a particularly huge age gap—and he towers above me—I still, of course, feel protective over him. I can’t help it, it’s ingrained in us as older siblings to feel protective over the younger ones. When we were little we were very close, we did everything together, as we got older and both became grumpy teenagers we drifted apart a bit, we had our own lives and did our own things. However three things have always been true: 1. For as long as I can remember he has always been around. 2. He’s always known how to irritate me and wind me up to the point of a full blown tantrum. 3. He’s always known exactly what to say or do to have me in fits of hysterical laughter, so much so that when I was little I’d end up with attacks of the hiccups from laughing so much.

When I was doing my BA at drama school I lived at home and I’d commute there daily, mainly because that was the easiest thing to do at the time and it meant I saved a lot of money. However my brother has  moved into halls, so he’s the first one of us to move out. I always knew that when he went off to university it would feel weird not having him around and I was right, it certainly takes some adjusting to. For starters just getting used to not seeing him around the house, lounging on the sofa with his laptop or foraging for food in the kitchen was strange. He has a real presence being as tall as he is and so him being gone is a really noticeable change, it’s like “Oh, where’s that giant person who used to live here gone?”

Then there’s the fact that the person who has kept you company all these years has gone. The thing about having a sibling around is you never get bored or lonely, you’ve always got the other one to chat to, or entertain you, or fight with, or even just be in the same room as you. So now that he’s gone, I find myself home alone a lot of the time, which I’ve actually discovered I don’t mind too much, I quite like it sometimes—but it did take some getting used to.

You worry about them! I found almost immediately after he moved out I started to worry about him, which is something I’d never done before. Will he be OK on his own? What if he doesn’t have a good time? What if something bad happens to him? I guess it was the older sibling protective instinct kicking in. I think it’s expected for parents to feel like that but it genuinely surprised me that I was worrying too. He has been away at school for a while now so as a family we’ve gotten used to it and no longer feel anxious…or rather we feel less anxious, but initially all I could think was, “He’s out there on his own for the first time! ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN!”

Whether you like to admit it or not, you’re going to miss your siblings when they move out and they’ll miss you too.  However I’ve found there’s a positive outcome to it all: it has brought us closer together. We make plans to do things together, which is something we’ve never done before. When he lived at home we never made plans with each other, mainly because his thoughts on the matter were “I don’t want to hang out with my sister!” Now however, we want to spend time together because it feels like we hardly ever see each other. We also make the effort to keep in contact with each other, whereas before one of us would never even think about texting the other unless we needed something. Now we regularly check in to see how the other one is doing, which doesn’t seem like much but actually is quite sweet and means a lot. The nicest thing I’ve found is that when he comes home to visit, the house is filled with excitement and love, it’s like a celebration which is just a lovely thing to be a part of.

We’re still in the early stages of my brother living away from home—it’s only been a few months—but what I’ve discovered so far is that even though a sibling moving out may seem like a sad thing at first, in the end it turns out to be really positive. Your relationship with them changes for the better, it brings them closer, not only to you, but to the whole family. They become more like a close friend and spending time together becomes a really special thing. So if you are about to go through this for the first time with one of your siblings, don’t worry, it’s exciting! Be happy for them starting a new stage in their life and look forward to the positive changes it brings.

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