Losing a Sibling

Grief Support

We empathize with how the death of a loved one can be a difficult experience.

They may be gone, but they are far from forgotten. It’s an experience nobody expects yet leaves scars in our hearts that last a lifetime.

In our own way, Algordanza wishes to help you cope with grief and loss. A local certified Psychotherapist stands with us in this endeavor and brings you the following articles to help you in times of grieving:

Losing a Sibling
Losing a Sibling
Written by:Sasha Javadpour - Founder|Director|Psychotherapist-Hirsch Therapy Pte. Ltd.

Losing a Sibling
“We must never forget that we must also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate which cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement.”
~ Viktor Frankl ~

Sibling relationships have a fundamental impact on our experience of ourselves and the world. The sibling connection is unique even in comparison to the relationship with other family members. It is this unique bond that siblings have, that makes the death of a sibling particularly devastating.

The relationship between siblings is one of the most complicated and influential of all family relationships. Siblings can be friends or enemies. They can be close or distant. The relationship can be resentful and competitive, or loving and caring. Generally, most sibling relationships start on rocky grounds, but they develop a closer and stronger bond as the years go by. During these years, as a result of their early and constant interactions, siblings naturally influence the development of each other’s personal identity and character. It is this developmental influence that is at the core of the bond, and which transcends blood ties, early experiences, and shared responsibilities for their parents later in life.

Unfortunately, it is this core feature that makes the loss of a sibling so traumatic. The loss of a sibling strikes at the very foundations we have constructed for ourselves.

The extent to which the surviving sibling is affected by this loss can vary depending on several factors. Some factors include the nature of the death, the immediate and enduring impact that the death has on the family and the community, the age of the deceased sibling, and the age and developmental stage of the surviving sibling. These factors tend to influence the meaning the surviving sibling draws from the loss. The death of a sibling can mean the loss of a playmate, confidante, role model, or friend. On a deeper level, the loss of a sibling can mean a loss of identity or the loss of a sense of completeness in the family. The loss can also mean vulnerability for the surviving sibling because, who can they turn to now when they need someone close to talk to?

As with all forms of grief, care must be taken to ensure that the emotional needs of the bereaved are met by showing them patience, love, affection, and validation. As part of the grieving process, it is necessary to acknowledge the emotions and thoughts brought about by the loss. These will have a significant influence on the meaning derived from the loss. This is especially so in the loss of a sibling where difficult emotions such as guilt, regret, aimlessness, or emptiness may arise. Particular work has to be done to ensure that the meaning derived from the loss is accurate and healthy. After which, the surviving sibling will have to work on ways to ensure that their needs can still be met despite the physical absence of their sibling.

We tend to carry a natural assumption that the sibling relationship is a shared journey that will last a lifetime. During this journey, siblings will have a tremendous impact on how the other develops, grows, and experiences the world. The sudden loss of this figure has a tendency to shut this journey down and bring life to a momentary standstill. At this point the surviving sibling may experience many negative beliefs and emotions such as guilt, regret, aimlessness, and emptiness. Many may feel that they were somehow responsible for the death or that they could have done more to prevent the death. Many may feel lost, directionless, or empty without their sibling who was once there to guide them and provide critical feedback.

In such times, it can be helpful to go through all their memories of their sibling with someone trusted – the good and the bad. This will provide the grieving sibling with a more complete picture of their relationship, as well as help the grieving sibling express all thoughts and emotions associated with these memories. In the long-term, by facing these emotions and thoughts, rather than avoiding or suppressing them, the grieving individual gets the opportunity to integrate all memories of their lost loved one in the most accurate and healthy way possible.

There is also nothing wrong with maintaining a connection with the deceased sibling if it’s done with the right intentions. Studies have found that it can be helpful to keep some possession of the deceased sibling to maintain a connection to them. This item can provide some comfort when times get lonely and the surviving sibling finds themselves in need of the guidance once provided by their sibling. This can be particularly helpful for surviving siblings who may feel worried about forgetting their deceased sibling if they do not constantly think about them. The maintenance of a connection in this manner, after death, can be beneficial in the process of healthy grieving and can provide comfort, direction and encouragement for the surviving sibling.

The death of a sibling affects the entire family. The process of adjusting to this loss can be particularly difficult because so many members are in need of support and care that it is not uncommon for some to be left unattended to. In family grief counselling, communication and family cohesion become the main focus. This is to help maintain the vital sense of closeness, togetherness, stability, and security that is needed by every family member. The members learn to take care of others and allow themselves to be taken care of by others. This reduces the possibility of any one member becoming overwhelmed or neglected.

Children will continue to think about their deceased sibling, especially during big events such as starting at a new school, graduation, birthdays, weddings, and family reunions. When brought up, such thoughts need to be addressed openly and allowed to air, rather than being brushed aside or avoided. Parents can take this opportunity to encourage their child to use such moments to reflect fondly on their deceased sibling to prevent feelings of survivor’s guilt or regret from festering.

Fortunately, although many people report distress and trauma during the grieving process, many also report personal growth and newfound strengths. Many survivors also report a new sense of appreciation for life with new perspectives and reformed priorities. Managing the loss of a sibling is an ongoing process that continuously shapes the way we experience the world around us and our relationships. For this reason, it is important to continuously check in with your needs and ensure that they are not left unattended.