Chapter 3: How your sibling’s death may affect you

If you were a child when your sibling died

I've been there
Lucy speaks about how she felt lost in space in her grief. (3:22)Video transcript
Lucy speaks about how sometimes her grief is still at the surface more than 50 years later. (3:22)Video transcript

I don’t remember my parents ever asking me how I was doing. I think that they were so buried in their own grief that they didn’t realize what a tremendous impact this life-changing moment had on me as a 13-year-old.

I was only a toddler when my older sister died. I have faint memories of her playing and a few fuzzy photographs. I can’t help but feel sad when I think about her and the life she didn’t get to live – what she missed out on and what I missed out on too.  

Depending on the circumstances of your sibling’s death and your age at the time, you may or may not remember much about what happened. As you matured into an adult, you may have revisited this loss from time to time, or more often. You may have grappled with both new and old questions. Whether or not you’ve been able to share these with others in your family will have partly depended on how open they are to talking about a painful time in everyone’s life.

Click on the tabs to view some examples of circumstances that may have affected your grief.

Your age

Your age or developmental stage would have determined what you understood about death and what happened to your sibling.

Your sibling’s age

If you and your sibling were close in age, you likely knew them well, although perhaps not for long.

How they died

Whether your sibling was sick for some time or died unexpectedly, you may have had questions about what happened. If their death was sudden or accidentally, you may have experienced trauma. It’s also possible that you may have felt responsible or blamed by others.

Being present at the death

If you were present when they died, you may carry different memories of this with you.

Not being present at the death

If your sibling was away from you when they died, you may have imagined what their death was like, or you may have had trouble believing they died.

Click on each item on the left for more detail

Even if you were very young, your sibling who died is still a part of you and your life story.

If you have continued to struggle with your grief into adulthood, it’s important to find support you may not have had when your sibling died. Talk with supportive family and friends or seek out others who may have experienced the death of a sibling when they were children. You may also find it helpful to see a grief counsellor.