Sibling Loss. The Forgotten Mourners
When mourning the death of a sibling, surviving adult siblings are sometimes called the "forgotten mourners." Why?
Because the grief an adult sibling suffers is often overshadowed by the grief of more immediate family members. But losing a sibling at any point in life is a significant and painful event. Although you might not have had constant contact with the sibling, you feel a deep loss for a person who was a constant presence in your life, for one who shared your family history, culture, and connections since childhood.
The Sibling Bond: Strong and Long-Lasting.
If you were raised with a brother or sister by the same parents and were relatively close in age, you are likely to have a closer relationship than siblings raised by different parental figures and separated by a wide age range.
While specific family dynamics vary, the bond formed between siblings is typically strong and long-lasting. The sibling bond grows out of a shared collection of unique traits and experiences. In many ways the sibling relationship will be the longest-lasting relationship we have, longer than even the child-parent relationship.
Usually only a few years separate siblings in age, meaning that each becomes aware of one another — and each other's developing role in the family — in their early years. The connections that siblings make begin at these early stages and carry on through adolescence. As we grow up, develop our own family, friends, and activities, the sense of having someone who shares a common identity with us remains strong, even as contact may become less frequent.
Losing a Sibling as an Adult
The death of a brother or sister in later adulthood is frequently thought of as having virtually no effect on the siblings left behind. This is based on the assumption that the loss to the sibling's children or spouse outweighs the loss that a sibling feels.
As you mourn the passing of a sibling, you may feel that others aren't affected in the same way as you. It's important to realize if your sibling wasn't a big part in the life of other family members, the death may not have the same impact on them as it does on you. Other family members may not understand the importance of the sibling in your life and the reason for your grief. You and your family members will benefit if you communicate your feelings to them as you work through your grief. Two ways you can do this include:
- Talking with your immediate family members about the role the sibling played in your life, from the earliest years to adulthood.
- Showing your grief openly. Men especially tend to internalize their emotions. Understanding that it is alright to openly grieve will not only help you cope with your loss in a healthier way, but show your children that it is acceptable for them to grieve a loss as well
Adolescent Loss of a Sibling
If you are a parent or guardian of multiple children and one passes away, not only will you be grieving the loss of a child, you must also help the surviving children cope with the loss of their sibling. It's important to remember that your surviving children had a close relationship with their departed sibling, similar to your parent-child bond.
If you can relate to any of the above, contact me.