Ted is Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn's older brother, best friend, and the "ringmaster of her days." On a September morning when she is six, she wakes up and Ted is gone. Her parents explain that he went to the hospital for a while. "A while" turns out to be eight years in a plastic bubble, where he dies of a rare autoimmune disease at age seventeen. The Empty Room is DeVita-Raeburn's unflinching, often haunting recollection of life with Ted, woven into a larger exploration of the enormous -- and often unacknowledged -- impact of a sister's or brother's death on remaining siblings. With an inspired blend of life experience, journalistic acumen, and research training, DeVita-Raeburn draws on interviews of more than two hundred survivors to render a powerful portrait of the range of conditions and emotions, from withdrawal to guilt to rage, that attend such loss. Finding little in professional literature, she realizes that those who suffer are the experts. And in the end, it is DeVita-Raeburn and her experts who present a larger, more complex understanding of the sibling bond, the lifelong impact of the severing of that bond, and the tools needed to heal and move forward. The Empty Room is a fascinating literary hybrid in which Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn seamlessly fuses deeply affecting remembrance with a pragmatic, lucidly written exploration of the healing journey.
Alison Smith author of Name All the AnimalsThe Empty Room is one of those quietly revolutionary books. Through her own grief, through conscientious research and compassionate journalism, DeVita-Raeburn tells the story of a forgotten grief. In our culture, sibling grief is hidden. It is a nameless, faceless loss. DeVita-Raeburn gives these siblings a voice. And in doing so, she gives us back the story of our own lives.
Judith Guest author of Ordinary People and The Tarnished Eye This book is a factual description of my own fictional preoccupations, and I found myself thinking over and over: The Empty Room is a book that could save lives. Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn has offered a wonderful gift, an invaluable source for both solace and understanding. This book is not only for those who have lost siblings, but for all of us who have siblings and have struggled with the joys and mysteries of a mingled identity.
Andrew Solomon author of The Noonday Demon The death of a sibling is a curiously neglected area in modern psychology, and in The Empty Room, Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn delves into this particular and poignant category of trauma. Her book is compassionate and generous and will be a great solace to people isolated in the pain of such loss.
Reeve Lindbergh author of Under a Wing This is a brave, wise, and above all open-minded look at a truth that seems to have been ignored almost entirely: sibling love and sibling loss are as profound as any other experiences in our family lives and do impact us, enormously, forever. It's as if Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn has opened a new window on a landscape I thought I knew, and suddenly, after all these years, I see my own home ground much more clearly.
Isadore Rosenfeld, M.D. Rossi Distinguished Professor of Clinical Medicine at New York Hospital Weil Cornell Medical Center and author of The Best Treatment This moving book is a must-read for anyone who has lost a brother or sister (and for their parents as well) and needs help understanding and coping with their emotions.
Judy Dunn author of Sisters and Brothers and professor at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London This is a poignant exploration of a seriously neglected topic -- the impact of the death of a sibling. It is a moving contribution to our understanding of sibling relationships and will surely be helpful to those coping with the grief of bereavement.
Helen Rosen, Ph.D. author of Unspoken Grief: Coping with Childhood Sibling Loss Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn's The Empty Room is a very welcome addition to the scant literature on sibling loss. In telling her own story, as well as the stories of those she interviewed for the book, DeVita-Raeburn draws us into the experience of both children and adults who have lost a brother or sister. It amazes me that sibling loss continues to go unrecognized as the potentially life-changing event that it is. Here's a book that acknowledges that pain and will help survivors begin to heal.
Joanna H. Fanos, author of Sibling Loss The journalistic skills of DeVita-Raeburn, combined with her courage in sharing her own personal story of her complex responses and feelings to her brother's illness and death, have produced a book which represents a significant step in portraying the profound consequences of sibling loss. Her story is destined to reach the hearts of many readers, not only those of us whose personal journey of discovery and healing resonates with hers.