Listen to ‘Dear Sugars’: The Empty Chair Part 1

Courtesy of The New York Times | By Dear Sugars | Originally Posted 11.04.2017 | Published 11.07.2017

“My brother, my younger sister’s twin, died when I was five years old. I was the lucky one. My sister is not so lucky,” writes a listener who calls herself “Forever Grieving.” “There’s a constant reminder that my sister survived and our brother didn’t. At every holiday I watch as my sister wilts at the table when my mom reminisces about those we lost.”

In our Empty Chair series, the Sugars discuss early childhood death, an absence that can be ever-present. In Part 1, we read letters from people who live in the shadow of their parents’ grief.

“How do I broach this with my mom?” asks “Forever Grieving. “Every time I’ve tried the conversation turns into one in which I’m reassuring her that she’s not a terrible mother. Sugars, I am at a loss.”

To answer, the Sugars call on the writer Jessica Handler, whose two sisters died from blood disorders. “I grew up knowing that I would be the only one left,” says Ms. Handler, “and I very often feel the need to live for three people.” Ms. Handler recounts the responsibilities that fell to her after her sisters died and helps tease apart the different ways parents and siblings grieve.

Ms. Handler is a professor of creative writing at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. She’s the author of “Invisible Sisters: A Memoir” and “Braving the Fire: A Guide to Writing About Grief and Loss.” Her new book, “The Magnetic Girl,” is coming in 2019.


“Ordinary People,” by Judith Guest

“The Catcher in the Rye,” by J. D. Salinger

“Sophie’s Choice,” by William Styron


The Dougy Center

The Compassionate Friends

Bereaved Parents of the USA

New episodes of “Dear Sugars” are released weekly. You can also read the Sugars’ advice in their Styles column, The Sweet Spot. Do you have a question for the Sugars? Email or leave a voice mail message on our hotline at 929-399-8477.

How do I listen?

If you don’t see an audio player on this page or to subscribe to “Dear Sugars” for free, follow the instructions below.

On your iPhone or iPad:

Open the preloaded app called Podcasts; it has a purple icon. If you’re reading this from your phone, tap this link, which will take you straight there. (You can also use the magnifying glass icon to search; type “Dear Sugars.”)

Once you’re on the series page, you can tap on the episode title to play it, and tap on the “subscribe” button to have new episodes sent to your phone free.

Or if you prefer another podcast player, you can find “Dear Sugars” there. (Here’s the RSS feed.)

On your Android phone or tablet:

You can listen and subscribe using the free app RadioPublic, which is available worldwide. If you’re reading this from your phone, tap this link to play the latest episode and learn more about the app.

Or if you prefer another podcast player, you can find “Dear Sugars” there. (Here’s the RSS feed.)

From a desktop or laptop:

Click the “play” button above to start the show. Make sure to keep that window open on your browser if you’re doing other things, or else the audio will stop. You can always find the latest episode at

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