Adult sibling support groups
Are you an adult who has grown up with a disabled brother or sister? Would you like to meet others who just ‘get’ what life as a sibling is like? You’re not alone. Join a support group today.
Why come to a group?
These friendly groups, run by trained volunteers, are an opportunity for adult siblings to meet and support each other.
Being a sibling can be a complex and challenging experience. Whilst we can’t remove all of the stressors in an adult sibling’s life, we can give siblings more resources to cope.
The aims of the group are to:
- Reduce isolation
- Improve wellbeing and resilience
- Share knowledge
We ask members and facilitators for regular feedback to make sure groups continue to meet siblings’ needs.
Who can join a group?
To join a group you need to:
- Be aged 18 or over
- Currently live in the UK
- Have (or had) a brother or sister who has a lifelong disability from birth*
- Enjoy meeting others!
Some siblings who join a group are carers for their brother/sister, and many aren’t. Some siblings who join are bereaved. You are very welcome, whatever your circumstances or level of involvement (or not) with your brother/sister’s care.
*Types of lifelong disabilities from birth might include: spina bifida, cerebral palsy, mild/moderate/severe or profound and multiple learning disabilities, Down Syndrome, Williams Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, Dravet syndrome, Apert Syndrome, a Syndrome Without A Name (SWAN), genetic disorders, Cri du Chat Syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, Tuberous Sclerosis, a life-limiting condition and any other lifelong physical or learning disability from birth.
Who can’t join?
The groups are just for adult siblings of someone with a lifelong disability from birth (see list above). If you’re a sibling of someone with a severe mental illness, have a look at Rethink Mental Illness – support for siblings.
A sibling-only environment helps siblings to feel comfortable sharing their experiences with others who truly understand. No parents, partners, brothers/sisters, researchers or professionals will be admitted.
Please note, you must currently live in the UK to join any of our online or face-to-face support groups, as we are not funded to support siblings outside of the UK.
What can I expect at a group?
- A friendly hello from our trained volunteer facilitators
- A sibling-only environment that’s safe, confidential and respectful of each member’s different circumstances
- Chat about sibling-related topics (read more in our eBook and guides)
- To share your experiences, tips, advice and information as a sibling and hear the same from others
- To give and receive emotional support
- The chance to help the group with things like advertising and welcoming new members
What isn’t included at a group?
These are friendly and informal peer groups, where people give and receive emotional support.
- Facilitators cannot offer you one-to-one support
- The group cannot offer formal therapy or counselling
- Have been through a recent trauma or personal crisis
- Are in the very raw stages of a traumatic bereavement
You may benefit more from counselling than from coming to a group. Read our advice on how to find a counsellor. Some siblings have counselling and come to a group alongside this.
Who runs the group?
Groups are run by our trained volunteer facilitators, who are siblings themselves. They’re passionate about helping siblings to meet and support each other. Their role is to get in touch with new members, arrange the meetings and to help everyone in the group talk about sibling issues. The facilitators are members of the group too, and they will give and receive peer support like anyone else. Interested in becoming a facilitator? Read more here.
Meet some of our brilliant facilitator team here:
Where are the groups held?
- BCP (Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole) Dorset (online & face to face)
- Belfast (online)
- Berkshire – Reading (online)
- Birmingham (online)
- Bristol & South Gloucestershire (online)
- Cardiff (online)
- Lincoln (online)
- London central – evening group (online & face to face)
- London – east (online)
- London – west (online)
- Manchester (online)
- Newcastle (online)
- Plymouth (online)
- Sheffield (online)
- Southampton (online)
- Surrey & Sussex (online)
Many groups are meeting online due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, some are looking at moving to face-to-face meetings, or a mix of online and face-to-face. We ask that you join a group in your area, so that if and when the groups can meet in person you’ll still be able to take part. Each group is deciding this on an individual basis.
UK-wide groups that just meet online:
- National – for siblings across the UK. Ideal for anyone that doesn’t have a local group close by
- Bereaved siblings – for siblings whose disabled brother or sister has died (read more below)
- Group for men – Men tend to be underrepresented as siblings, so we have created a support group to allow men to share their perspective with each other. Men are also welcome to join any of the other groups
- Shielding siblings – for siblings who are living cautiously or shielding because of the risk Covid-19 places on their disabled brother or sister’s health
You can join more than one group if you’d like to.
When do the groups meet?
Each group organises their own meeting dates and times, so once you’ve registered (below) the facilitator will be in touch to let you know. Groups are usually held on a weekday evening, for a couple of hours. There’s a meeting every 4 – 8 weeks. You can come to as many or as few as you like, but please do let the facilitator know if you can make it or not – it helps them to plan.
About our bereavement group
Our bereaved siblings group is a friendly peer support group for siblings whose disabled brother or sister has died. Some siblings may be in their first year of bereavement, others in their fifty-first – all are welcome. It is not a therapy group and some siblings prefer to attend counselling before (or alongside) coming to this group.
There are limited spaces in the bereavement group and a waiting list. A smaller group size ensures that the conversation is manageable and allows everyone time to give and receive support. The group meets 6 times in a 12 month period. New members don’t join part-way through the 12 month period. This helps everyone to get to know each other and make the most of their 6 sessions. Attendance at the meetings is key and we ask that siblings signing up aim to come to 5 out of the 6 sessions.
Our current cohort is underway. If you’d like to join the next bereavement group cohort, please sign up using the form below and you’ll be added to the waiting list. Our brilliant facilitators will be ready to warmly welcome you to the next group. Bereaved siblings are also welcome to join a local group at any time, if they prefer to discuss sibling experiences widely or attend more flexibly.
What our group members say
“I always look forward to the meetings and leave them feeling a bit lighter.”
“I have met a fantastic group of friends who have always supported me when times are difficult and I feel a much stronger person as a result.”
“It is a safe and trusting environment”
“It was a relief to find I was not alone.”
“After an evening at a group I feel re-energised and able to carry on with the job I have to do but did not choose.”
“I am not someone who connects very automatically with new people, but our situation is so specific that I felt a bond and sense of community from my very first session.”
“It was the first place I really felt I belonged as I had never had the opportunity to meet other siblings prior to the group.”
“It has given me the confidence to regularly take my sister out and try to build a better relationship with her which has also given my parents a bit of respite. I also feel more knowledgeable about care and have been given strategies to talk to my parents about the future which I hope to use when the time is right.”
“I have often felt like there was something wrong with me, or that I’m too needy or immature, whereas I realise now it’s probably the opposite, and having that experience as a lonely sibling skews our perceptions of ourselves. I recently joined the group for adult siblings and it’s so nice to know other people are in the same boat.”
I’d like to join a group
- Read the group member agreement
- Fill in this form
- A group facilitator will get in touch with the date and time of their next meeting
I’d like to start a group
We’re reliant on enthusiastic volunteers coming forward to run these groups, and we’re grateful to have so many across the UK already. Interested in making a difference to siblings by starting your own group? Read more here.