My sister died five years ago. I learned so much from her, especially about kindness. I have tried to be kinder in my life now, and I can see and feel her smiling at me when I am.
The death of a brother or sister is often not recognized as being significant. The meaning of your own experience will depend on several factors, including your relationship with your sibling; the roles you had in each other’s lives; the way they died; their age and your age at the time of death; and whether or not you were present at the death.
Recognizing, naming, and acknowledging the losses that have resulted from your sibling’s death can be helpful as you come to terms with what has happened and find ways to live with your grief. You may also be dealing with other losses, some of which are not related to death, such as divorce or job loss. You may have many different and sometimes conflicting feelings.
While you are grieving, you may also be dealing with the grief of others who knew your sibling. This can be a source of comfort or stress, or both. Because of different personalities and the unique relationships that each person had with your brother or sister, everyone will experience and express their grief in different ways and at different times. Try to be patient and kind, and suspend judgments of yourself and others.
Remember to look after your own needs as well as those of others. Do what works best for you. Explore different ideas and consider what “support” means to you. You may want time alone as well as time with others. Find people you feel comfortable with, let them know what you do and don’t need, and tell them if those needs change. There may be times when you need them to listen to your thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and other times when you need them to be comfortable with silence or find something to distract you from your grief for a while.
Your sibling’s belongings may or may not be important to you, or you may or may not have had the chance to be involved in decisions about how these are distributed. Keep in mind that while you won’t “get over” your sibling’s death or these losses, over time your memories are likely to shift from what has been lost to your sibling’s legacy: What did you learn about living from them? What impact did their life have on you or others? You may find ways to create a different but continuing relationship with your sibling – a relationship within yourself, or a symbolic one, that becomes integrated into your life.
If you are struggling with feelings or thoughts that overwhelm you or interfere with your everyday functioning, don’t hesitate to seek help from your family physician or an experienced grief counsellor. There are people who can understand, support, and help you in your grief.