Sibling Page

Siblings Walking Together  

The death of a child is a family crisis no less for the siblings than for the parents.  Surviving siblings may feel abandoned because grieving parents no longer have the emotional energy to care for them.  They may feel unloved as they experience family and friends putting the deceased child on a pedestal.  They may feel incredibly guilty, remembering every bout of sibling rivalry, every unkind word, and every slammed door.  They may feel unworthy to be alive, longing for answers to explain why their brother or sister died and they didn’t.  And they may, therefore, seek conscious or unconscious ways to self-destruct: running away from home, using alcohol and other drugs, taking on characteristics of the dead siblings and thus diminishing their own image.




How Parents Can Help

The following are suggestions children have shared about how parents can help them when a brother or sister has died:

1.  Allow siblings to participate fully in funeral plans and memorial activities. Let them choose whether or not they want to see their sibling at the funeral home.  Let them choose some of the music, write and/or read a memorial to their brother or sister, go with you or alone to cemetery visits.

2.  Share with the siblings all factual information, as it becomes known.  Being “left out” only enhances a growing sense of not being important to the family.

3.  When you see children who remind you of your child, point them out to the siblings and explain the grief spasm as has caused.  Mysterious behavior enhances the sibling’s fear of being left out.

4.  Ask the siblings to be with you occasionally as you grieve.  If you always grieve in private, the emotional distance between you will widen.

5.  Talk with siblings about both pleasant memories and unpleasant memories of the dead child.  This prevents pedestal placing.

6.  Don’t tell siblings to “be strong” for someone else.  That is too great a burden to carry.

7.  Understand that it may be easier for siblings to talk to friends, or another trusted adult, than to parents.  They desperately do not want to add to their parents’ devastation so may seek counsel and understanding elsewhere.

8.  Remember that you can’t change the past.  But you can face the present and guide the future. 

Your family will forever be changed – it does not always have to remain devastated.

wcd  Janice Lord, TCF/Anne Arundel County, MD
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My Sister, My Friend

Within our hearts
You will always be,
Our minds will be filled
With sweet memories.

Your spirit and love
Will never be gone,
For each life you touched
Will carry them on.

wcdCatherine Hall TCF Hinsdale, IL




A Tribute

I think of you in silence,
But my feelings seldom show,
But how it hurts to lose you
Know one will ever know

I hope there is eternal life,
so we can meet again,
I not only lost my brother,
I lost my very best friend.

The reason you left so early
I'll never understand why.
I just wish I'd known you were never coming,
Cause I would have said good-bye.


wcdMarta King TCF, Concorde, NH


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