Grief is different for everybody and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Although you may be an adult, or old enough to think like one, you may have difficulty dealing with the enormity of the situation. You may want comforting or you may want to be left on your own.
You may feel unable to approach your parents when their own pain is so raw or you may feel that your own emotions are less important than theirs. You might be in shock and denial, or you may even want to die yourself in the hope of re-joining your sibling. This catastrophic event will change the relationships within your family, and you may now have become the eldest, the youngest or the only child.
Compensating after the death
Using up energy trying to appear ‘normal’ can be exhausting. You may also feel guilty about many different things, including arguments you might have had with your sibling. Grief can make you feel tired, restless, vulnerable, isolated, less confident, or angry that your sibling has been taken from you. These feelings are common and you should not suppress them. Help and support is available instead of suffering by yourself.
However experience of death can teach you to appreciate the things that really matter and to evaluate the choices you make. Many people you meet will not know how to deal with your loss. They may say nothing, or they may make comments that seem cruel or uncaring but this likely to be from ignorance rather than any intention to hurt.
The empty space
You should beware of trying to become a substitute for your sibling or of trying to make up for the things they will not get to do. You have to continue to be the person you want to be.
How many siblings do I have?
When we meet new people we are often asked, “How many brothers and sisters do you have?” It is not an easy question to answer. It sometimes feels awkward or inappropriate to tell someone your sibling has died, but it can also feel disloyal to answer without mentioning the person you love and have lost.
When you have lost a sibling there are special occasions that can be very distressing, both in anticipation and the day itself. It’s a good idea to discuss with other family members how to spend the day. TCF also has a leaflet Coping with Special Occasions.
We all experience a fear of forgetting the person we have lost. There are many different ways to keep their memory alive and these are explored in depth in the TCF leaflet Siblings.
TCF publishes online a quarterly newsletter, SIBBS (Support In Bereavement for Brothers and Sisters). To receive the siblings newsletter every quarter - you can either 'join TCF' as a donating member here: your membership donation helps to support our work with bereaved siblings and their families). Or you can simply sign up to receive a free information pack and free newsletter for bereaved siblings.
In recent years The Compassionate Friends has held supportive overnight retreats for adult bereaved siblings in Birmingham. Read more about a weekend retreat for siblings.
During Covid times, in person support meetings are unable to take place. Instead there are regular one-off online support group meetings for bereaved siblings. You can find more details and how to register here.
‘SIBBS’ Facebook Group (over 18 years only)
This is a private TCF Facebook group for adult bereaved siblings. If you would like to join, please email the moderators, Emma or Rebecca. Please note this FB Group is for adult bereaved siblings only and is not open to other family members of the deceased such as nieces, nephews, sisters in law or brothers in law.
Bereaved Siblings Facebook Group (under or over 18 years)
Siblings may find this group helpful although it is not affiliated to TCF and TCF cannot take responsibility for its content. It is a closed group but welcomes new people. You need to message them to join.
Have a free Helpline – 0808 808 1677 – and website, Hope Again, for young bereaved people.
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Each year thousands of parents suffer the loss of a son or a daughter. Please help us to support families in their time of greatest need.