Brothers, Sisters, Strangers — Survey

  • Dear Respondent:

    Thank you for taking the time to fill out my survey on sibling estrangement. My interest in this topic is rooted in my personal story; my older brother and I didn’t talk to each other for most of my adult life. Over time, we did reconcile, and that journey has prompted many questions. Often, I’ve wondered about the nature of these relationships and, in particular, when and how they break down, cut off, or enter the territory of estrangement. Do those who experience a break with a sibling feel relieved that they no longer have a troubling presence in their lives or do they suffer from displacement and loss, or a combination?  How does the estrangement affect the larger family? Do siblings often reconcile, and under what circumstances?  How do siblings bridge their relationship after years of resentment and hurts?

    As an author, I often bring my own experiences to my writing. My memoir, Motherland, explores the difficult relationship I had with my mother, a Holocaust refugee. Recently, I decided to write about the break I experienced with my own brother, and sibling estrangements in general -- a condition so common that some researchers say it is an “epidemic.” As I’ve come to understand, it also remains largely unexplored, and often goes undiscussed. Brothers, Sisters, Strangers will tell the story of my brother’s and my relationship in the context of others, hoping to shine a light on these intimate, often difficult ties. Like me, you may find it helpful to think through these issues; filling out this survey may provide a useful structure to begin to do so.

    For the purposes of generating the broadest range of responses, I have not specifically defined “estrangement.”  I’m interested in your experience, and why you use that word to describe your sibling relationship.

    The information you offer here will remain confidential. You do not need to provide your name unless you would like to continue to explore the topic with me through a personal interview.  Should I interview you, I will compensate you for your time. Any stories included in the book will appear only with permission, and with appropriate changes to names and identifying characteristics. I deeply appreciate your responses. Please feel free to contact me prior to responding if you have any questions about the project or the survey.

    Fern Schumer Chapman