- Hello Grief - http://www.hellogrief.org -

Grief Unrecognized: Loss of a Sibling

[1]Echoes of each other’s being.
Whose eyes are those that look like mine?
Whose smile reminds me of my own?
Whose thoughts come through with just a glance?
Who knows me as no others do?
Who in the whole wide world is most like me
Yet not like me at all?
My sibling.

(Faber & Mazlish, 1989, p. 114)

So often the death of a sibling is dismissed, unrecognized or even ignored. The assumption is that perhaps it is not as devastating as a parent losing a child, a wife losing a husband, or even a child losing a parent. Yet, our siblings are one of the longest lasting relationships we will ever have.

Siblings define our past, are key in our “evolution” of our identity, and they know all of the intricacies of our families. Our siblings saw us in the best of times and in the worst. There is no other relationship like the sibling connection. In an instant your world changed when your brother or sister died. In an instant, your entire family changed forever.

The impact of losing a sibling has many layers and hits on many levels. You might feel guilt that you are the one that survived, you may feel confusion about what role you now play in the family, you may be angry that your family has changed so drastically, and the sadness you experience can be indescribable.

To quote the title of a superb book- Invisible Heroes (Naparstek, B), which outlines the impact trauma has on the body, this title also represents survivors of sibling loss. Many often feel invisible as their grief is so vastly overlooked.

In efforts to combat feeling invisible, make your loss and your grief known. Educate others about how  sibling grief shapes you. Just as there was a connection before your sibling died, there can be after the death as well.

Pay tribute and honor your brother or sister often. Say their name, tell their story, do random acts of kindness as a means of memorializing. Just as the poem suggests, don’t allow the “echo of your being” to be forgotten. It was an important relationship and will forever be.