Sibling Loss

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Sibling relationships play a unique role in our lives. Our brothers and sisters can often become the first person we confide in, the first relationship we share a solid history with, feel understood by, learn constructive conflict with, and provide emotional support too.
We often assume that our siblings are going to stick with us through thick and thin, that we will share our life with them until the end. So, when we lose a sibling in untimely fashion, the grief can be complicated and hard to navigate.

Siblings as the Forgotten Mourners 

Whether you had a close relationship with your sibling, or it could have been better, the bond that is formed in childhood is like no other. The shared memories, the inside jokes, and the things you can confide in one another stand the test of time. Even if you weren’t in touch with your brother or sister on a daily basis, the relationship has been a constant in your life.

Their death may shift the family dynamic, as you may now be the only living child or place in the birth order changes. Often, a sibling death deeply affects the parent/child relationship – no matter your and your parents’ ages. This new role, when paired with the other complexities of grief, is a lot to make sense of.

It’s easy to let your mind go to the “if only” and dwell on what could have or should have been. Friends may have trouble understanding what you’re going through. They may tell you its time to move on, accept the loss – particularly if you haven’t been close to your sibling over the years.

But remember this: that missing piece of your life will always exist. You may imagine how your relationship with your sibling might have improved in years ahead. You might picture the two of you side by side as you grew older. Keep in mind that you do not have to minimize or leave behind the connection you had to heal and move forward in a healthy way.

Navigating Grief

First and foremost, know that your grief is valid. You just lost a person whose life was intertwined with yours for years. It’s okay to feel like you lost a part of yourself, because, in a way, you did.

Grief can also feel confounding if you’re experiencing it for the first time. But don’t push the grief away or avoid it. The longer you delay feeling it, the more painful it becomes to confront.

Mourning, or coming to terms with the loss, can look different for each person. Many people find talking about the deceased person helpful. You may want to consider keeping a grief journal to document your feelings about your siblings death and how it changes over time. Perhaps you find ways to get creative when celebrating your siblings life. You can do this by creating an online memorial where people can contribute objects or volunteer for a cause that was dear to your sibling.

It may seem like your parents’ grief is somehow bigger or that you have to be there for them, but your grief is valid too, taking care of your parents through this shared loss might put a strain on your emotional reserves, so remember to keep some time for yourself. And don’t feel bound by what anyone suggests is the right timeline or right way for you to mourn. Yours is going to be a unique journey out of this loss, shaped by the nature of the relationship you shared, the age of your sibling, your age, your support systems, and your life situation, among other factors.

The death of a sibling can be difficult to deal with. Healing from your grief and loss will be challenging for the first few weeks. With time, your sadness will lift. Getting over the pain of this loss is not easy by any means, but having healthy support systems, seeking professional help, and coping mechanisms can make a world of difference. You should expect that your unbearable grief will transition into a more manageable pain for your loss that slowly begins to heal.