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

Thoughts and feelings

I've been there
Karen speaks about feeling jealousy and guilt as part of grieving her sister's death.(3:22)Video transcript
Lucy speaks about a sense of guilt in her grief.(3:22)Video transcript

He was such a kind, thoughtful, good person. It just isn’t fair…he had so much to give and so much to live for. Sometimes I feel like it should have been me who died, not him.

I had so much guilt about how I acted toward my brother when we were younger and how that maybe contributed to his problems. I wish I could apologize for those things now.

Identifying and acknowledging whatever thoughts or emotions you are experiencing can help you to understand and find ways to live with your loss. This takes energy, and you may have times when you need a break to restore your energy. You might also use distraction to push thoughts and feelings away, perhaps because they seem overwhelming or exhausting. This moving in and out of grief is both normal and healthy.

Click each tab on the left to discover more about the thoughts and feelings you might have, depending on the circumstances of your sibling’s death.


…about things left unsaid or undone; about not being able to be there


… at your sibling for dying; for not getting an apology from them

…at others for the sense of unfairness; for not being able to cure or help them


Guilt or blame

… about things you felt responsible for; about not being able to honour their final wishes; that you are still alive and they are not (“survivor’s guilt”); about not being able to help them

Fear or worry

…. about your own death (e.g., “When will it be my turn?” “What will my own death be like?”); about what the future holds; about other losses stemming from their death

Click on each item on the left for more detail

Some feelings may seem contradictory or irrational. For example, if your sibling was suffering for some time before their death, either physically or emotionally, you might feel some relief that they are gone and then feel guilty or ashamed. You may feel worried or confused by the intensity of your feelings, especially if they are mixed or they catch you off guard.

Particularly after an unexpected or violent death, you might feel in a “fog” for days, weeks, or months. You might feel shock, numbness, disorientation, or a sense that everything is surreal. Normal feelings of guilt and regret can be amplified when someone dies unexpectedly.

What may help

Try not to judge yourself for any feeling. Remember that feelings are just feelings; they are neither good nor bad, neither right nor wrong.

Some feelings may last a long time or surprise you. There may be others that you don’t experience at all. If you don’t cry or feel sad, this doesn’t mean something is wrong with you.

Remind yourself that one feeling doesn’t cancel out another. For example, you may feel sad that your sibling has died while at the same time feeling gratitude that you are alive.

Feelings such as guilt, regret, or anger can either help or hinder you in your grief. Consider whether or not they match reality. This can help to prevent you from getting “stuck” in your grief, and it can influence how you approach things in the future.

Recognize that survivor guilt often comes from wishing you had control over a situation that can’t be changed.

Fears about your own mortality may lead to a deeper appreciation for your life and other relationships. The phrase “life is short” may feel more real.