12 Tips for Dealing With the Death of a Sibling
If you've recently lost a sibling, know that you're not alone in your grief. Millions of people around the world have experienced the same pain and heartache that you're going through right now. While there is no one right way to cope with such a loss, there are some things that may help you get through this difficult time. Here are 12 tips for dealing with the death of a sibling.
1. Acknowledge your feelings
Loss and grief can be incredibly overwhelming, and it often feels like life is too heavy of a burden to bear. In these tough moments, it can be helpful to practise self-compassion and allow yourself the time to process what you are feeling.
Acknowledge that your experience is valid and give yourself permission to express whatever emotions come your way, however heavy or out of control they may seem. Taking stock of how you feel can help you recognise your worth and value, even in dark times. And with enough love and care for yourself, one day soon you will start on your path towards healing and recovery.
2. Talk about your sibling with others
You’re not the only one to experience a loss, and speaking to others who loved your sibling can help you to process your feelings. Learning how they touched other people’s lives can help you to build a bigger picture of them in your mind, which can help you to hold on to their memory.
Talking to others who are also grieving will also give you a frame of reference to help you as you process your own grief. They might be able to share some insight and experience that will help you to manage your feelings.
3. Share memories of your sibling with friends and family
Growing up with siblings can bring some of life's most cherished memories. Whether it was bickering over trivial items or playing in the yard, having a sibling by our side is something we all cherish. However, for those experiencing the passing of a beloved brother or sister, it can be a heart-wrenching time.
Sharing fond memories of your sibling can help you to find a little bit of joy during this time. It can leave you feeling guilty to laugh again, but it can help you to process your feelings effectively.
4. Create a memorial for your sibling in a special place
Creating a memorial for my sibling would be an emotional yet meaningful way to remember them. A memorial could be something that you keep with you, like a piece of jewellery. Or it could be a place that you visit, like a memorial tree or bench.
Putting your energy into creating a memorial for your sibling will enable you to compartmentalise your feelings. You can think about them when you need to, but you can also focus on other areas of your life if you need a little bit of help coping.
5. Help take care of any children they left behind
If your sibling had children, then you may have nieces and nephews that need your help more than ever before. You will offer a vital link to their missing parent that will be invaluable to them as they grow up. Pledging to stay involved in their lives is an important step.
There may be practical tasks such as taking on more responsibility around the house; they will likely also want emotional support while they cope with these changes. Show your care and encourage them to reach out if needed, and take time to remind them how much they are loved. Small gestures of support can go a long way in helping children who have been left behind.
6. Stay involved in the lives of their spouse or partner
If your sibling was married or in a relationship, you need to show their partner that you will still be there to support them. They might feel that they have lost their link to your side of the family and will also be grieving this huge life upheaval. By letting them know that you will always be there to support them for as long as they need, you will help to lessen their burden.
Likewise, you should respect their wishes if they decide they would like to cut ties with your side of the family. Unless there are children involved, you might find that they want a fresh start and feel uncomfortable having their deceased partner’s family on the scene. This can be particularly true if and when they decide to move on.
7. Seek support, particularly if you are a twin
The emotional connection between twins is incredibly strong, which is why it can be so devastating to lose a twin. You should always seek professional counselling if you are struggling with the loss of your sibling, but it’s particularly important if you are a twin.
You might be dealing with some incredibly complex feelings that need to be processed in a healthy way. Your twin will have been a permanent presence for your entire life, and dealing with not having them around anymore can be incredibly distressing. Make life easier on yourself by asking for professional support.
8. Forgive yourself for not being a perfect sibling
In the aftermath of their death, you might begin to reminisce about what you should have and could have done better. Forgive yourself for not always being the perfect sibling and accept that you are only human.
It’s important to let go of any guilt you may have about your actions, as these will only make your grief more difficult to manage. Once you have let go of these feelings, you can begin to process your grief in a healthy way.
9. Practice self-care
Self-care can mean something different to everyone. It’s all about taking time out to prioritise whatever makes you feel good. This could mean going for a long walk with a friend, trying activities that bring you joy, or just switching off for the evening and enjoying a good book.
Check in with yourself to figure out what makes your mind and body feel good, and then try to find ways to include more of this in your life. Processing grief means that you need to be able to put yourself first from time to time.
10. Accept that it takes time
Losing a sibling is something that you might never fully get over. You could be processing these feelings for months and even years to come. It’s also important to remember that grief isn’t a linear process that you go through.
You can cycle through the same stages, time after time, often feeling like you aren’t getting anywhere. This can be incredibly frustrating, so it’s better to learn how to just sit back and accept that it’s going to take a while.
11. Take a social media break
Social media encourages people to share their highlight reel, and this can be frustrating to see when you are dealing with something as devastating as losing a sibling. It can feel like the whole world is moving on and no one understands your pain.
When you feel this way, you know it’s time to take a step back from social media and try a little digital detox. This will also help to shelter you from social media self help gurus that are often offering potentially damaging advice.
12. Write letters to your sibling
If your sibling’s death was unexpected, you might feel that there was a lot left unsaid. You can start to process some of these feelings by writing letters to your sibling. You’ll be the only person who ever reads them, so you can be very honest about your feelings. This is a great way to process some of the more complex feelings that arise from the death of a sibling.
It’s ok to express anger, jealousy or bitterness in your letters. You can also talk about unresolved issues from your childhood that you never had a chance to discuss. It’s just between you and the piece of paper, so you can use this as a space to process your feelings after their death. This is a popular therapy technique that can help you to process your feelings and express yourself in a healthy way.
Losing a sibling is one of the hardest things a person can go through. Give yourself time to grieve and don't be afraid to talk about your sibling with others who knew and loved them. Share memories of your sibling and create a memorial for them in a special place.
Through talking about your feelings and other popular therapy techniques, you can begin to work through the stages of grief and put your life back together. Things won’t look the same as they did before you lost your sibling, so you need to focus on building a new life without them, while still honouring and cherishing their memory.