Grieving the Death of a Sibling

As a general rule, we hesitate to write about different types of loss.  To clarify, I am not referring to types of grief, which we’ve written about extensively.  Instead I am referring to loss in regards to type of relationship, such as the death of a parent, spouse, child, and so on. Allow me to share two reasons for our hesitancy:

  1. Although commonalities often exist amongst people who have experienced a certain type of loss, individual grief is as unique as the person experiencing it and their relationship with the person who died.  Although some people might be able to relate to aspects of another person’s grief, no one can completely understand how anyone else feels. On a whole, we recommend you learn what you can from your commonalities with other grievers, but take differences with a grain of salt.  And please, don’t try to compare.
  2. For some types of loss, like the death of a spouse or child, an abundance of really great resources already exist. Not only that, but some of these resources are maintained and/or provided by people who can speak with greater authority on the subject than we possibly could.  We know when we’re not needed, people.

That being said, there are some types of loss where few good resources exist. The other day I asked our Facebook community to suggest resources for people who’ve experienced the death of a sibling.  Although some were able to make recommendations, many were quick to point out their struggle to find help and support for their loss.  One reader even said she dubbed herself the “forgotten mourner” after finding sibling grief was so often overlooked in the support world.  Now, we can’t have that!

Obviously this is just a post and it doesn’t substitute for dedicated organizations, movements, or other types of support – but it’s a start.  Whatever you are able to contribute to the conversation in the comments and on social media, please do. The more voices we have speaking on the subject, the more supported and cared for other grieving siblings will hopefully feel.

This post is long, but the last thing we want to do is create another resource that is overgeneralized and unhelpful. At the end of the post we’ll link to a resource page with suggestions for locating support locally and online.  Got it? Good. Okay, let’s talk about some of the reasons why the death of a sibling (at any age) is really stinking hard.

Feelings and Emotions

grieving the death of a siblingYou may be experiencing grief over the death of your sibling if you feel any of the following –shock, numbness, sadness, despair, loneliness, isolation, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, irritability, anger, increased or decreased appetite, fatigue or sleeplessness, guilt, regret, depression, anxiety, crying, headaches, weakness, aches, pains, yearning, worry, frustration, detachment, isolation, questioning faith – to name a few.

Okay, so those things aren’t specific to sibling grief, however the way they are experienced by someone grieving a brother or sister may be. For example:

You feel guilty because…

…you are the sibling that survived.

…you knew your sibling inside and out and yet you didn’t know about the struggles or hardships that led to their death.

…you weren’t able to protect them.

…there are things you wish you had said, but didn’t

You feel anxiety because…

…you know how fragile life is.

…you’re worried you may die in the same way as your sibling.

…you’re worried others in your family may die.

You feel lonely because…

…although you’re surrounded by people, you miss the one person who you could truly be yourself with.

I could go on, but the important thing is to understand that your feelings are unique and important. Good, bad, or anywhere in-between, your relationship with your brother or sister was different than anyone else’s and so you’ll experience hurdles, triggers, and hardships that others may not.

Your parents, siblings, and other family members may grieve in many of the same ways that you do, but in many ways their grief may differ.  It’s important to remember this because misunderstandings can arise amongst family members when people react differently in response to a death.  It’s also important for people supporting bereaved siblings to keep this is mind so they can help validate and support the griever’s feelings and experiences.

Overshadowed Grief

This is just a guess, but I suspect a lack of sibling grief resources exists because sibling grief is often overshadowed. People simply cannot fathom the out-of-order-ness of a parent having to bury a child, so when this is the case their thoughts and concerns often immediately go to the parent’s grief. Parents themselves may not be able to effectively attend to their children’s grief and outside family and friends may be hesitant to step in and offer support or suggestions.  It might also be true that support and attention is first given to siblings who are younger or who are perceived to be more fragile. In a situation where any or all of these things are true, a grieving sibling may end up feeling as though other people’s grief is more important than their own.

This may be confounded by the fact that some people willingly allow their grief to go unnoticed by themselves or others. Raise your hand if you’re the sibling who feels like it’s your job to take care of and support the rest of the family.  After a death, some siblings might quickly step in to take care of their younger children and/or their parents because they feel it’s their role or duty. Sometimes this happens out of necessity, sometimes avoidance, sometimes expectation, and sometimes all of the above. It is important for all members of the family to recognize that no one’s grief should take complete precedence. Although family members might take turns supporting one another, at one point or another everyone’s grief deserves attention and needs to be attended to.

overshadowed griefChanges in Family Dynamics and Support Systems

Families – functional or dysfunctional – often operate according to a set of norms, roles, traditions, and patterns. Each person has their place in the family system, so things can get thrown off balance when someone in the family dies. An important person gone, and those who survive them are sometimes unable, unwilling, or disinterested in filling that person’s role(s) or carrying out traditions and patterns as they have in the past.

Shifting family dynamics can lead to the weakening of support systems. Parents and siblings who are grieving may be of less, little, or no help. If a person’s support system largely consists of family (which is often the case for children and teens) they may find they’re facing one of the hardest periods of their life without a safety net.

The support system may also be weakened if the person who died was an important source of support for surviving siblings. This may be true at any age, but if the death happens when the siblings are in older adulthood, the person who died may have been one of the surviving sibling’s few living family members

For all these reasons, and others, it is common for people to have to reassess their support system in the wake of loss and to seek out additional help while coping with their grief.


Comparisons and Expectations

You are special and you are wonderful (come on…you know you are). You have no one to live up to besides yourself, your goals, and your own potential.

Okay, I just wanted to say that as a reminder to anyone who feels like they’re living in the shadow of a deceased sibling. Feeling compared or overshadowed is common after the death of a sibling, and (although you may be hesitant to admit it) this experience can result in feelings of resentment or anger towards family and/or the person who died.

If this sounds like you, the first thing we recommend you do is ask yourself, “Who is making me feel this way?”  If the answer is your parents or other family members, then the next thing you might do is try to communicate with your family about how you feel. This might seem like a scary task because you don’t want to rock the boat or make anyone feel worse in their grief. If this is the case, or if you think your concerns will fall on deaf ears, you might want to consider talking to a counselor about how to approach the situation, or enlist the help of a family counselor to work with the family as a whole.

Now, you may find that you yourself are responsible for comparisons and expectations. This might happen for a number of reasons including insecurity, guilt, or the feeling that you need to pick up where your sibling left off.  If you think you might be the source of comparison, then some serious self-reflection is probably needed.

Acknowledging the truth of the situation is a good start, you’re in even better shape if you can identify why this is happening.  As you search for answers, you might find it’s helpful to spend time in reflection, to journal, or to talk to a trusted confidant, support group member(s), or counselor.

Missed Opportunities

When a person dies, you are not only robbed of their physical presence in the here and now, but you (and they) also lose the chance to spend your tomorrows together. Your life after their death becomes a filled with thoughts of “if only”, ” we would have”, and “I wish.”

This is obviously the case for missed opportunities in the future; the happy moments you wish you could have spent together like weddings, graduations, births, adventures, and family get togethers. We talk a lot about how to handle these moments here and here and here. However missed opportunities are also felt when people wish they could make up for all they didn’t do while the person was alive. For example taking the chance to say “I love you”, “I’m sorry”, “I forgive you” and “I care”. 

You miss the hell out of them

Sibling relationships obviously vary in their degrees of closeness, love, and amicability.  Some siblings may be thick as thieves, others wonder whether they’re even really related.  Regardless, siblings are our ties to family bonds.  They have known us the longest. They understand our history and are the people with whom we have the longest running jokes.

They are our bridesmaids and our groomsmen. They are our children’s aunts and uncles.  They bail us out when we’re in trouble, they loan us money, and then we loan it back.  They are the most judgmental people we know.  They are the most accepting and loving people we know.  Siblings can never be replaced and when they are gone we miss the hell out of them.


As promised, you can find help locating sibling grief support on this page. Please comment below and share your experience with the death of a sibling and/or recommended resources.

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March 28, 2017

105 responses on "Grieving the Death of a Sibling"

  1. I lost my 54-year old brother on Monday to bone cancer. He has always been and will always be my best friend and the person I have cherished most in my life. The giant hole ripped from my heart will always miss him badly and it will not be filled until we are together again in the hereafter as we were in this life. He was 21 months older than I was and so we shared pretty much everything together – bedroom growing up, our friends, a few girlfriends(!), life’s dreams and downfalls, and our triumphs and tribulations. I am totally and simply lost in extreme sadness. My body and mind keep reminding me of the loss of my brother no matter what I do, and while I am trying to think of all the good and wonderful times we had together as a celebration of his life, I remain paralyzed in frozen sadness. I just can’t stand the emptiness and loneness I am experiencing. I am broken.

  2. Back in the days I was afraid to die. I was terrified I was unable to go sleep without covering my body from head to toe with a sheet.
    Now after I lost my only brother my baby brother my everything the one who supported the one who looked after me. I feel like nothing matters to me. My brother and I grew up together and he went through hell we grow up without our parents living with relatives , but my pain is not our past life or being rejected from our parents; my pain is the death of my
    Baby brother and words cannot describe how much love I feel for him moreover how much I miss you. Can’t wait to meet again manito . RIP Fernando Ortega 10/292015

  3. Thank you for sharing ?

  4. My brother Matt died on 07/15/16. He was only 39 years old. Him and his wife were coming home from a Harley-Davidson bike night. A truck pulled out in front of them. Matt was killed instantly, his wife was life flighted and is still recovering in a facility. I miss him like crazy. So many years ago when Mom brought him home after giving birth, I was convinced she had brought this precious little boy home just for me. We became best friends, built a trust like no other, got in trouble together, never told on one another. As our childhood grew into adulthood we still gave each other hard times and also true loyal compassion. We talked openly. We kept in contact daily, even during challenged timed. What I wonder is WHY my spouse will not let me grieve? Why does he think that my life will EVER be the same? How can he even think about intamacy right now, AND truly want to have relations? That is the last thing on my mind. My life will never be the same since this beautiful and unique man left my life. He was my brother.

  5. I am so glad to have found this site. I just lost my older brother two days ago and am devastated…..I held his hand and hugged him for 26 hours while watching him die. He had no wife or girlfriend, no children. I had no idea he was so sick; he kept on working up until two weeks ago w/no complaints. Not only am I devastated but I feel so guilty that I was not more supportive of him. I had jealousy issues w/him over the years because our mother really loved and doted on him and did not have much time for me. And I let that jealousy affect how I viewed him sometimes. So now I’m going through this stage of beating myself up for this. I’m glad though that he had that love from our mother all his life. Having that love made him the wonderful person he was.

  6. I LOST MY MOM IN AUG 2012 THEN LOST MY DAD 13 MONTHS LATER , I have a really big family as you no we was all distraught , l have 7 brothers & 3 sisters we all live separate got our own family’s we were all so close , but September this year my brother was killed in a motor bike accident he was married with 1 sibling & 2 step sons was on married 12 months , but I’m so angry I have fell out with half my family even the wife of my brother don’t really want to go in to to much detail , let me just say she’s gone back on her word some days I don’t feel angry but I have had argument with most my brothers even the 1 brother I’m really close too & I don’t even feel guilty about the rows iv had either , because what iv said I feel is true to me it’s like no one as listened even if I shouted it from an hill top

  7. Hi. Today 22 years ago I lost my eldest brother to a heart attack he was 21 and I 12. I was the one to find him. He was my all. My heart is still very much torn. 4 years ago I lost my last brother he 32 and I 29. I feel totally lost. I often feel angry and that unfairness. Try to be a soldier but boy it is hard. Questions like I’m not the one supposed to take care of my parents and to do their funeral arrangements Ect. My whole life is over. Folks live with me I take care of them financially and physically. Dad had a stroke a year ago leaving him like a todler. I’m 34 and no where to go. Won’t be able to live my life eva.

  8. I am so devastated. My baby brother died 3 weeks ago from today at the age of 19. I call him baby because he was special needs, unable to speak or hear, and I was his caregiver for the past 6 months while my parents were working. He was my favorite person in the world, he had such a pure innocent heart and such a wonderful personality. He was always smiling and laughing, regardless of how many surgeries he had gone through. He was the person I spent the most time with and vice versa. We were extremely attached to each other. I don’t know what to do without him here anymore. It felt like he was my purpose in life and I had always pictured my future with him in it. He made me a better person and I am so sad I will never be able to see him or feel him again. I would do anything to hug him one more time. He stopped breathing in my arms after an epilepsy attack and he then passed away in the hospital as I held his hand. I keep reliving his death and I don’t know how to get the horrifying memories and feelings out of my head. His presence in the house leaves a large void and everyone is heartbroken. We all feel like something is missing and it leaves us all depressed. I hope I can get better but the pain is the same as the day it all happened.

  9. My big brother passed away on Friday and I’m a broken man 🙁 He was my pillar and the person I could always go to for advice.It feels like a part of me died and life without him would not be the same. I cannot sleep and just burst out in tears when I think of him. I’m just glad I had a chance to say goodbye and I will never forget our last handshake. I keep asking myself why it wasn’t me ?? He has two beautiful boys and they need him and I have no family of my own and I would do anything to change places. I suffer from depression and I’m in a dark place at the moment but I know I have to get myself together as I promised I will always be there for the boys and be the man in their lives. Thank you for the article

    • Hello Phil,
      As I’m on this site looking for support, guidance, just anything to help. I came across your post and feel pretty much the same way. Last week I unexpectedly lost my older sister. She has one daughter and I just feel that if someone had to go it should of been me. Her daughter needs her, my parents need her. But being the sibling I feel left out and not so much needed. Sigh maybe it’s just too new. I can’t think and I cry at just about anything. I noticed you posted a few months ago now, Does it get any better? Is there something that you’ve found that helped? I don’t really have many friends so I am struggling here.

  10. There is a wonderful book. “Surviving the Death of a Sibling” T.J. Wray

  11. I’m glad I came across this article. I lost my younger sister to a heroin overdose in March of this year. Every day since has been a roller coaster. I can really relate with a lot of the things written about- survivors guilt is a big one, even though I’ve never done the drug and am not worried I will pass in the same manner– it’s just a question of why her, why then? I grieved her passing before she was physically gone because of her lifestyle, and came to terms with the fact that choosing to live her life the way she did was a risk, and she knew that. When she passed away, it was during her longest stretch of sobriety in her adult life. I had no idea she was back into using. Even though I know there was nothing I could have done… I’ll always question–what if there was? Looking forward to checking out the support groups mentioned.

    • kaityin im so sorry for your loss. i understand what you’re going through. my brother passed away last year. that was the day i stopped living. he had a very bad substance abuse problem and pain pills. he fell down his stairs. it was a couple of hours before anyone found him. not a day goes by that i dont think about him i miss him so much. i wish so badly that we could have got him help. i blame myself i didnt try hard enough. he was my best friend

  12. I blogged about my loss of my identical Twin sister at the age of 13. It may be of use to someone else.

  13. My older sister died in a snowboarding accident on December 7th, 2015. I will always be a little bit lonely without her and although life may be good at times, I know it would be even better with her here. It saddens me that people (strangers, friends, family-to-be) will never meet her, for she was one of a kind. I miss everything about her, even the way she yelled at me when she was angry. I am lucky to have the most supportive parents, but at times still nothing helps and I know that my grief is a burden I will bear forever. I have tried counseling but it all seems redundant and there is no ‘fixing’ to be done. I simply wish I could talk to her, hug her, hear about her new adventures, meet her new friends and loved ones. My parents and I have a saying that helps sometimes “we may be broken, but we are still good” we use this quote to help us realize that we must still stick together. My sister died instantly at age 23. I was 20 at the time. Now I’m 21. I’m so scared for the day I turn 23 because I don’t want to be older than her. sharing and receiving love are the only things that help me through. I try to live my life as if she is guiding me.

  14. Thank you so much for writing and sharing this. My younger sister died when I was seven and I’m still coming to terms with it, partly because I had no counselling or other support (other than my loving family). I’m writing a book about it. I’d be happy to talk to anyone who’d like to share their experience too. Thanks for all the wonderful work you do, WYG.

  15. My brother was killed in a car wreck March 24 2016 i don’t know how to handle it well i think about it constantly everyday it’s hard for me to sleep and i stay depressed my heart was ripped to shreds on that horrible day.

  16. My younger sister died 3 months ago. She was one of my best friends and I miss her every single day. I had a few very bad days, when getting out of bed was a challenge. But I went to see my former therapist and that helped. I think the worst is over but I know I will mourn for my sister until I die.

  17. My only sibling, an older sister, died 5 months ago. Both our parents are deceased. I also agree there is not much information available that addresses adult sibling grief. Most people do not even acknowledge your grief. I received few sympathy cards or calls. People who I thought were friends have fallen away. After her death, I volunteered to send out the thank you notes for my brother-in-law and helped him with discarding some things at their home. This kept me busy for several weeks. But now I am feeling the extreme loss of her death. I tell myself that I had over four years to prepare for her loss but you are never prepared for that final day. I have taken a grief recovery class which helped very little and have read a variety of books on grief. Keeping busy helps for the moment but find I have many “memory embraces” that leave me in tears or sobbing. This loss of my sister has affected me much more deeply than either the loss of my parents. She was part of my history and even though we were six years apart in age, she was always there for me. She was a strong individual and seemed to be able to handle almost all type of crisis, even stage four cancer. I know I will get through this but don’t see it happening in the near future.

  18. As a grandmother I watched as my grandsons siblings grieved as their brother battled through his cancer journey
    They were with him as he died and spoke at his funeral all at the tender ages og 13, 9 and 4

  19. I lost my older sister 3 weeks ago, it was unexpected. She died on the operating table during a surgery that was supposed to save her life, not end it. There were 26 years between us, so she was an aunt as much as a sister. We always used to scheme and surprise our dad with something big and epic on Father’s day, like a new set of tools or a room full of worlds best dad equipment. Crazy maybe but in addition to doing something nice it was our chance to bond. Flying solo this year I just feel lost and wish I could drag her back down from heaven to remind me what this year’s plan was. All I do when I’m alone is sit and listen to ‘Sissy’s Song’ by Alan Jackson miss her and cry

  20. I am 27 yrs old, my younger brother was 25 when he passed away two months ago now. I don’t know how or even what I feel yet other than pain and sadness almost every day. He was in a sudden car accident where he died very quick. I wish I could comprehend what’s flowing through me right now, the feelings, the rush of air leaving me when I think of him, the tears that suddenly flow when I type this. I hate that I feel so much pain and it angers me at times when I think about not being able to see him and or share our futures together any longer. I truly hate accepting his death and I’m not sure how to come to terms with it, I just want to be able to go a day without losing my breath and not being able to stop my tears no matter where I am. Half of me was suddenly stripped away from me and taken forever without warning, he was my guardian as I was his, and it’s extremely hard to shake the feelings of complete loneliness. I need help, I know I do.

    • Corey: I am so sorry for your loss. My sister died in March. Although she was 67, it’s still difficult. I remember feeling like my heart was breaking and wondering if my chest would explode because the ache was so severe that day and all I could do was hug a teddy bear and sob. 61 years old! But thst bear helped comfort me. We just take each day momemt by moment. Hopefully, the pain will lessen.

  21. having lost my older sister recently whom i was her carer suddenly and having no other relatives to count on nobody seems to understands my grief as i found her dead in bed in the house we shared feeling lost and alone now its 6 months and i still miss her and sometimes don’t feel like getting out of bed just want to be on my own people just don’t understand how i feel they want me to get out and meet people get a job but i can’t do it

  22. I lost my sister 42 days ago. She was the middle one, i have an older sister of 45, I’m 36 and my sister who died was 42. She gave birth to twins 5 months ago and on 24 April 2016 she.just. died. Her husband and I tried to resuscitate her but we didn’t realise at the time that she had suffered a quick death and that whilst I was blowing my air into her lungs, she was gone already. It’s 42 days later and i miss her every day. People support me but im amazed at the uncomfortability people feel when you grieve. My cousin in her innocence told me last night wow! You are really grieving for your sister. I thought to myself, what do you mean? Of course! My heart is broken, i MISS her, my life will never be the same again. We lived in the same gated community and i went to her every day. We chatted every day, we sat next to each other and sang silly songs, i told her my secrets.. and my eldest sister lives in the Netherlands so I have become the manager of everybody’s feelings. I help where I can, i comfort everybody. But even though I have friends who listen to me etc, i feel alone in my grief. I’m sad and i miss my sister so much.

  23. this is so hard to talk about. i still cant believe my brother is gone he was my best friend. he was 47 when he passed away. he had a substance abuse problem and we had tried for years for him to get help but he wouldnt . the night it happened he fell down his stairs and died of positional asphyxia . he suffered for a couple of hours before he passed. i feel like im going crazy i wake up every morning hoping its been a horrible nightmare then realize its not.. i try so hard to be strong for my parents and my kids but its so hard. i feel like i have to cry alone. i know life will never be the same ive lost part of me. i just dont understand how this happened no one is ever prepared to lose someone. we were so close we talked everyday when my phone rings i still think its him. i dont know anyone who has lost a sibling or have a support group where i live so im glad to have someone to talk to that understands.

  24. Great post on the subject! Even though it’s been a long time since I’ve lost my siblings, the subject is very much in my experience recently. A dear friend of mine just lost her sister. We felt it is important to talk about the subject. So we’re going to do so on If anyone wants to watch or join us, you’re welcome to with open hearts. You can go to and look for the scheduled blab called Processing Sibling Grief is a Unique Journey on April 24th at 5:00 pm EST ♡

  25. I commend you on the post. It’s true there are not many resources for sibling loss. If I may, I would add a few points based on my son’s experience after his brother’s passing.
    Especially with small kids there is fear (could this happen to me or someone else in our family), guilt (for those times they weren’t nice to their sibling or jealous of them). With children their grief evolves as they grow as they begin to process and understand death, love, what it means to have a sibling or not have one. In a way they relive the loss as they mature

    • Yes, there is fear, guilt, sadness, and the overwhelming feelings that you can’t make things better for your parents or the children left behind. What makes it worse are the words left unsaid. I’m on rollar coaster and can’t get off….

  26. Thanks for posting about sibling grief my eldest brother was killed 3 years ago I was expected to support everybody and when I tried to grieve was told by my parents I was selfish so I didn’t grieve until last year when I had a breakdown and ended up trying to take my own life my family no longer talk to me as iam the bad one the one who should’ve died not him even though no one could’ve saved him that day and I wasn’t even there is have been vilified and had all my parents anger and bitterness directed at me until I finally said enough I’m done and refused to have anything to do with them my brother was I years older than me and was like a father to me he was my hero and I looked up to him so losing him felt like the end of the world and being told by my father that he had no kids anymore as the only one that mattered was dead hurt me even more siblings are overlooked in grief I know I have but I have now got support through doctors cruse bereavement and my partner and my baby who I was pregnant with when my brother died was born with ginger hair just like my brother so I will always have that reminder it never gets easier you just learn to live with the constant pain and heartache

  27. My sister and I are the only siblings in our family. I’m 4 years older than her and she died in a car accident 30th December 2013. I’ve never known life without her…apart from the first 4 years of my life we’ve been there for each other, so being without her is a very alien existence. My parents don’t talk to me much anymore. ..they don’t visit me and it’s as though the grief of her death is all theirs. ..they have never comforted me and they don’t let me be involved with anything pertaining to her…this sounds harsh. ..and it feels harsh for me because it was never like this when my sister was alive…but on reading this article I now relate and understand why it is like this. ..I have tried talking with my parents and visiting them weekly and hoping that love from me could change. ..but it’s making no difference. I’m having a break from them to get my head together because I thought I was going crazy…my adult children and husband have always been there for me and I have to remind myself that this is a wonderful thing. ..but I miss my sister terribly and existing without her is pretty empty and a huge challenge for me daily. ..I have had some counseling but it was only telling me the obvious. .that I miss my sister and time will help. ..your article has helped me more identify and understand the loss of a sibling. …x

  28. I’ve lost two sisters in three months. I am devastated beyond words. I cannot accept that they are gone. I never got to say goodby. I miss them both so much.

    • Profile photo of Eleanor Haley

      That is a lot of loss in a very short period of time. I’m so sorry for everything you must be going through. 🙁

    • I am 82 years old and grieving the loss of my brother who passed away at 78 years very recently. My younger brother passed 22 years ago. There is nothing to compare to the loss of a sibling..very different from one’s parents passing..even though that is painful. I truly feel for all who are going through this unique pain.

      • Profile photo of Litsa Williams

        Anne, I am so sorry for your losses. It is hard to imagine adjusting to a world without a person who has been part of your life for 78 years. I hope you find some support here on our site. Take care.

  29. My only sister died in 1953 at the age of 12 from a kidney disease. I was 4 at the time. I have memories of her. I remember seeing her look at me and wave through the glass of a window in her hospital room. I was not allowed to see her. Within 2 months she was dead and I remember seeing her in her casket and asking my mother why was my sister sleeping there? My mother could not answer me and told me to go to my father, who said nothing. Over the years I had asked questions, but very little information was given to me. My aunts talked with me in later years about “things,” and how “fragile” my mother was. Even now, I feel like the left out one. I miss my sister and the times we should have shared. A couple years ago I did put together a scrapbook of what pictures I had of us together and I wrote little notes along with the pictures. Healing….maybe. My parents are both gone now and life was never the same after my sister died. It was a sad household. My father would sometimes talk about my sister (about something she may have done) and my mother would look at him with knives in her eyes. The conversation stopped. And so it went…………………..

    • Profile photo of Eleanor Haley

      Oh Joanie, I feel so sad for you. I feel sad for your parents as well, but I can only imagine what it must have been like to be 4-years-old and to have so many unanswered questions about your sister’s death. I’m sure you also had questions about her as a person as you grew older, but it sounds she wasn’t a topic of conversation. Although it sounds like you have looked for ways to grieve her and remember her in your own way, you unfortunately never had the opportunity to freely share, remember, and grieve as a family. This had to be tough 🙁

  30. I had 2 sisters in my family, my younger sister was murdered in Florida in 1980. My older sister died in 2009. I lost my only child, a daughter in 2005. I do have a younger brother in California. It’s really hard for me

  31. Other than my older sister, my brother knew me longer & better than anyone. When he died, I felt like many memories died too. He helped me remember things I had forgotten.

  32. Thank you for this post. I am actually writing my dissertation on unexpected adult sibling loss. I really struggled with the literature review in terms of finding sibling specific resources. Everything you said is spot on and helpful to this kind of loss. I feel as if you interviewed my participants. Everyone loss was unique, but the patterns are similar. I am so grateful that someone else is trying to shed light on the loss of a sibling.

    • Profile photo of Eleanor Haley

      Hey Robyn,

      I’m shocked how little there is for supporting people through the death of a sibling. You’d think there would be more, considering how many people leave behind one sibling at the very least. I’m glad to hear you’ve been looking into this, everything helps!


  33. My sister was killed in a tragic car accident 39 years ago today… was Easter Sunday. I was nine years old and I still suffer from this loss. This past week I have been struggling to just be……missing work, staying in bed and reliving the horrific event over and over. My brother was 11 and he too suffers but bottles up his pain but I know him so well. We were kind of just pushed aside….I’m sure folks thought because we were “just kids” we would be fine…neither of us have ever been fine. I have sadness creep up on my suddenly when I least expect it and sometimes it lasts for days and days. Just today a close friend asked me if I have ever considered grief counseling… first I thought it was a crazy idea because it was so long ago and then I thought maybe I can find some help with this sometimes unbearable pain. So here I am….looking for help and maybe some relief from this never ending pain.

  34. We are definitely the forgotten grievers. My sister had been terminally ill for 11 years, she died 3 years and nearly 3 months ago, she had just turned 20, I was 3 weeks from my 17th birthday. I was forgotten about almost straight away, even by friends…always the question ‘How’s your mum?’, even my mum has forgottten, we argue a lot and she always throws in my face ‘I’ve lost a daughter’…yeah well I’ve lost my sister but you don’t seem to care about that? The guilt, anger, regrets are all there of how I treated her, I did get a chance to say ‘I’m sorry please forgive me’ and ‘I love you’ before she passed as she was in a hospice for a week receiving palliative care so I knew she was going but she wasn’t able to respond but I feel she knew and I sat by her bed all day and night that week,keeping her company and telling her it was all okay and she was going to stop suffering and get to see her dad again. I can’t comprehend what losing my sister has done to me and I know no one I know will even ever slightly understand because of the way I come across…like I’m not bothered and that I’ve forgotten about her because I don’t like talking about her but that’s only because it’s too painful. I recently turned 20 so I am not officially the age she never got past, I find that so weird and struggled on my birthday to deal with that, I tried talking to my friend but felt like I was bothering her so I changed the subject. My whole life has been changed/affected by my sisters illness and then death…my family is not a family, we are far too damaged and broken now. I will never forget my sister and I love her to bits, sleep easy Rachel and party hard up there with grandad and your dad…and the other family we have up there <3

    • I’m glad you found a forum where you can express yourself and not feel guilty. Your feelings are valid and it’s okay to get them out. I don’t really have any advise for you, as my own grief has changed my life irrevocably. But I am thinking of you and I’m so sorry for your loss. Keep in touch.

  35. It was nice to find this site, I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I can start with my sister died suddenly, almost as if it was a bad dream. We spoke on the phone and she had a horrible cough. I had begged her to see a doctor. The next evening, her husband had called me and told me she was dead. She was 46 and left behind two young children with two different fathers. She left behind my parents and me….no warning….no time to express our love. A year or so has passed. I have spent the last year trying to hold everything together, my parents health and grief, the blending of my niece and nephew and their new family dynamics which is forever altered. I have realized that my own grief has been pushed aside. I have so many regrets and words that were left unsaid. As the world keeps going forward, I have to keep moving as well. Although, there are many days that I would like to curl up in a ball and simply replay my memories of my beautiful, older, only sister.

    • Profile photo of Eleanor Haley


      I’m so sorry for your pain and the stress you’ve been under. I worry so much about the person in the family who everyone looks to to hold things together, because this is often the selfless person who seldom gets a chance to focus on his or her own feelings. Now that you’ve realized this, I hope you find some time to really acknowledge and work through some of your own grief. And I know we all have to do what we have to do in life to get through, but you deserve a day once in a while to feel sad and to remember your sister. Please let us know how we can help.


  36. Thank you for writing this. I have read many articles on grief but only now realize it’s the type of loss (sibling) and with whom I was closest to of all my siblings – because of that I feel terribly lost. My true confidant and literal soul sister died almost a year ago. I find myself crying a lot again after months of bottled up tears. I suppose as the anniversary approaches I am reflecting on the final weeks & days with much clarity. I miss her. My other sister has tried to fill that void and I do love her deeply and she’s here but it doesn’t change the fact that my deceased sister is not. You would think I’d embrace the living sister the same but that seems shallow and false and I suppose could mean I hurt less. I also feel passionately that the deep pain I endure proves my love and loss is real. We should be honored to feel so much, however debilitating it is. It’s ours, we should embrace it with fullness and intensity.

    • Profile photo of Litsa Williams

      Maria, I am so sorry for the pain of losing your sister. The reality of losing someone is that they can never be replaced. Though new relationships might form and grow, though perhaps it may even bring you and your other sister closer, that will never fill the void. Those new or strengthened relationships can be a huge comfort and support in grief, but it is important to know that we should embrace those relationships for what they are and what they can be, not to replace something/someone.

  37. My eldest of 5 Sister’s whom I was closest to passed unexpectedly in 2014. Being the oldest Sibling now I felt a sense of responsibility to keep it together snd coordinate the final plans, I did not want to burden my parents, other siblings or the children, nieces. nephews. I was surprised at how alone I felt in my grief. I did find one book on sibling grief but did not find it helpful. The first 6 months were a secret nightmare for me, I think I suffered a nervous breakdown. Had I been able to turn to s support group I think I would have survived the immediate grief much better. I will be checking out Mourning our Brothers snd Sisters on facebook as a previous post suggested. Thank you for this post

    • Profile photo of Litsa Williams

      Mari, I am glad you found this of some help. I am so sorry for the pain you have been though over the last couple years. Out of curiosity, what was the book you read? We are always looking at grief books and wanting to know what people found helpful or unhelpful and why, as it helps us guide others. Please share if you happen to have a chance.

  38. This is a great post and has hit on almost all of the emotions and issues that I have dealt with since the loss of my sister and her husband in a plane crash over 30 years ago. Many times time does not heal, but we learn to deal with over time. When the accident occurred there was not a lot of resources available for siblings.
    With all the issues that were going on with the loss as well as grandparents decline in health made it even harder for my parents to deal with their emotions as well to be a support to myself.

  39. Thank you for this post, it always helps to be reminded that we are not alone out here in this world. I was 24 and my brother was 29 when he was KIA in 2006. Being a military brat growing up my brother was a big support for me and always stepped in when my parents were gone at work, busy with friends, or out at a bar. He was who I went to when School got extremely hard for me and I wanted to drop out and just give up. When I lost him it tore my heart out and I felt like I was lost at sea because my father acted like my sister and I didn’t exist or need support. It became all about his “widow” (who my brother hadnt even known that long before he married her). I was left floundering having so many questions and not knowing who to ask or go to with them about what happened to him. When I turned 29&30 were 2 of the roughest years after I lost my brother because all I could think about is why do I get to make it past 29 and his life was cut short. Without the help of TAPS ( Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) being there when I needed them I dont think I would still be here. I believe that more people need to realize that sibling grief is real and painful as well as other types of grief.

  40. Two days ago was the 6 year anniversary of my little brothers death. I can never seem to find words to explain what losing a sibling was and is like. My brother was KIA in Afghanistan by an IED and even now I still try to wrap my mind around the fact he is never coming home. I tell my self it wouldn’t hurt so bad if it wasn’t so tragic or if he had been sick and we had expected it but the truth is nothing would make it better. I want to let you know though. For siblings, parents, children and spouses that lose someone in the military there is an amazing program called T.A.P.S. ( Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) they have so much to offer and get you linked up with people going through the same things. It doesn’t matter if your loved one was KIA or as a result of PTSD they offer help for everything. I encourage you to check it out. I know it really helped being around other siblings that knew how I felt.

  41. This poem by the author of the Sibling Connection, for me, expresses perfectly how to embrace one’s grief rather than try to push it away:


    She rises out of nowhere, like a wave from the sea,
    Slowly at first, silently, then crests and peaks;
    Still I have a choice
    I can turn away, go to work, watch a movie, play a game…
    But I know sorrow well.
    Though I turn away, she will wait,
    Perfectly patient,
    Until I am still,
    Then crush me with all of her accumulated power.
    Once I had angry walls to shut her out,
    But her incessant pounding tore them down.
    So now, when she rises,
    I turn to her and say,
    Here I am, I know you, sorrow.
    She crashes on my shoreline,
    And sorrow and I are one
    Until, trailing frothy whitecaps,
    She sweeps away.

    by P.G. White

  42. Oops, sorry for some of the jumbled sentences in my previous post, can’t edit. “…socializing when other people your age don’t get it…” “It covers the complex expectations…”

  43. Hi, I lost my sister when she was 19 and I was 18. Many, many hard years later I finally found this website on sibling loss, which helped tremendously:

    It is extremely thorough and so on target, covering the issues that arise for loss of a sibling at different stages of life, if you are a child, a teen, a college student, or older. Issues such as challenges with socializing when there people your age don’t get what you’re going through, or when your parents are needing you emotionally so you neglect your own needs to become an independent adult. It covers are the complex expectations around being the surviving sibling. It also amazingly covers a lot of the stupid things people say to people who have lost a sibling. This site helped validate what I went through at a college that had no services for bereaved students. It also clarified for me how to accept my grief in a society that has a cultural habit of keeping mum or denying grief. I highly recommend it for anyone who has lost a sibling. I only wish I had come across it much earlier.

  44. My only sister died on 4 October 2015. I miss her so much and I am not sure where my future is going without her. Naturally she looked after me when I was a baby and was my biggest supporter, my confidant and my mentor. She helped me so much with many of the issues in my life and as an older sister she guided me too. Before she died I felt the pressure of stepping into her shoes as I felt I wouldn’t know what I had to do to help and support out widowed elderly mother. I am doing what I can for our mother now as I have to. I’m hoping she will guide me into making the right decisions and choices for our mother.

    Already I am getting a sense of people thinking I should be over the grieving period. It’s so hard especially at this time as Christmas approaches.

    The only beautiful thing that exists in all of this is that I was with my sister when she passed away, I held her hand and she gave me the job of informing others who were there also when I realised her breathing was changing and death approaching. She seemed to hand the reins over to me. X

    • Profile photo of Eleanor Haley


      I’m so sorry about the death of your sister; I am sure you miss ever all day every day. I am glad you can hold onto the beautiful final moments that you shared. I am sorry you’re feeling subtle pressure to move on. People don’t know what the right thing to say is and they want you to feel better because it makes them feel better…just remember though that they aren’t right. Grief takes time, it’s something that we cope with little by little every day. You can and should continue to feel the pain of this loss for as long as you need to.


  45. Thank you for addressing this issue. My brother died unexpectedly and suddenly a number of years ago and for some time, I felt as though I was the forgotten mourner. It felt as though others didn’t recognise my grief as being relevant or as important as the grief of my parents. I distinctly recall being approached by friends and family after the death and asked, “How is your mother? How is your father? It must be so hard for them”. This question/statement was repeated time and time again. It was rare for anyone to say, “How are you? This must be so hard for you” – and in the meantime, my heart was broken. I’ve slowly worked through the “if onlys”, “I’m sorrys” and other “shoulda, coulda, wouldas” as I like to call them. It has taken time and required me to be vulnerable and ask friends for help and support but I now feel that I’ve waded through the immediate grief, have pulled myself up onto the shore and can now breathe and look forward to the future. I know that my grief journey would have been made a lot easier if sibling grief was recognised and appropriate resources had been available.

    • I just discovered this site this morning, and was profoundly affected by several of the posts. I’d like to have my children read several of these comments, but they’d realize how much of a failure of a mother I was when their brother died. Roger was the oldest son; right in the middle of 7 children. He had asthma all his life (as did several of the others, but none quite as bad as Roger) and spent a year at the Children’s Asthma Research Institute and Hospital (CARIH) in Denver when he was 10. He was supposed to be there for 2 years, but we missed him too much. That was probably wrong of us also. Parents aren’t supposed to have a “favorite child” but he was mine and his siblings knew it and didn’t resent it (at least outwardly) because he was their favorite sibling also. Everyone who knew him thought he was a fine young man; a great friend, a good athlete (in spite of the asthma) and a shining example to others. When he died from an asthma attack at the age of 17 (35 years ago) from what we thought was just a routine trip to the emergency room, our whole world fell apart. My husband and I went to grief counseling, but he wasn’t comfortable with it.I went once without him because I DID get some comfort. I don’t think we even knew about any sibling counseling. They say some couples divorce after the loss of a child, but we knew we had to go on for the sake of the other kids. Unfortunately we really didn’t know how to HELP them cope, although we did try. We even moved to another state (for 5 months) to attempt a “fresh start” with the three other boys, but that was a disaster. I’ve said several times over the years that our family wouldn’t be as dysfunctional as it is if Roger had lived, because he wouldn’t have allowed it. Now I realize that we should have tried to do more to help them cope instead of letting our OWN grief overwhelm us, but it’s 35 years too late. My husband died 14 years ago, and I’m still dealing with that. At least he and Roger are together in Heaven, breathing free.

  46. Thank you for this. I recently lost my 26 year old little brother and, six months later, my 30 year old big sister. My sister died of an overdose but I think her heart was already broken. When my brother died it felt like losing a limb. I stilldon’t feel like a whole person anymore, and even when I’m around friends, I often feel lost and lonely. I don’t understand how everyone else can just carry on as if nothing happened. I think they are tired of my grief, they think I should be better now. I don’t think I’ll ever be better, because parts of me are gone.

    My siblings were my closest friends, and now I find myself without many others. It’s hard to figure out how to be close to people, to make new friends. I don’t talk about them around others because I know it makes people uncomfortable, but it’s always on my mind. It colors everything I do. Losing a sibling is unimaginable and I wish that no one else had to feel this.

    I haven’t found many resources or any support groups in my area, but I did buy a book called “Angel Catcher” that I have found helpful at times. It’s a journal with helpful prompts and supportive ideas and quotes. I bought one for a friend who lost a sibling and for my youngest brother, who I know is having a hard time of it all too. I’m grateful for this website and I listen to the podcast often. Thank you for putting all of this out there.

  47. All I can say is I just love this article it really hit home. Me and my brother WERE thick as thieves. I also couldn’t protect him and I didn’t get to say I’m sorry. Also, I knew him inside and out, I knew his heart, but I didn’t know his struggles, I thought I did but it was more than I could comprehend. It was way over my head. I thought I knew but I didn’t even after. I still don’t know. All I know is that I miss him horribly every day.

    • Thank you so much for your comment. My brother passed away less than three weeks ago, and I am still in shock. I had no idea how sick he truly was, and never got to say I was sorry for not realizing his pain. Diabetic and in renal failure, he passed away suddenly and at 38. I was naive about his health and his quality of life, and regret minimizing his struggle. He was my best friend and I can’t believe he’s just gone. Your comment hit home with me and I had to write. I am sorry for your brother’s passing.

      • My brother passed away less than three weeks ago, and I am still in shock. I had no idea how sick he truly was, and never got to say I was sorry for not realizing his pain. Diabetic and in renal failure, he passed away suddenly and at 38. I was naive about his health and his quality of life, and regret minimizing his struggle. He was my best friend and I can’t believe he’s just gone. I had been approved to be his kidney donor; he just didn’t get healthy enough to have the operation. I should have taken a more active role in his care and maybe he would still be with us. Life for me will never be the same. Knowing he is gone.

  48. My brother died almost 3 years ago and so much of me died with him. In fact, the family sort of fell apart. Who knew this wonderful man was what held us together in so many ways?

  49. I only know one person who lost a sibling and she never says anything outside her family about it.
    I’m a member of a club nobody asked to be in; the ‘People who know relatives and friends who died by homicide’ group. Her brother was murdered at Columbine High School in the library. That’s where most of them were killed but not Daniel Rohrbough. He was killed outside and laid there for 3 days before anyone would claim his body. I never understood that but oh well.
    Christine never says a word about it beyond helping with gun safety and keeping firearms away from absolute lunatics like Dylan Roof, who killed 9 people in a Charleston, South Carolina church.
    The only comment she’s made is was to say that certain comments from so-called well-meaning people make her crazy. The ones who say things without having any idea that their words might be construed as insensitivity of the speaker.

  50. These comments are very hard to read because they resonate so much with my own feelings and experience. In 1974 our mother died of an overdose, the last of multiple attempts. My brother was 13, my sister 9 and I was almost 15.

    From about the age of 8 or 9 I knew what was happening when our mother went into
    hospital and became complicit in keeping her depression and suicide attempts secret from my younger siblings. I knew what the warning signs were which indicated that she was sliding into depression and also the subtle hints she gave before taking
    another overdose. More than once I had to accompany her to the local hospital and wait while her stomach was pumped out. When she was in a local psychiatric hospital (a horrible former asylum with naked old people wandering around screaming and faeces smeared on the walls) we would visit her and I don’t think my brother and sister ever questioned why she was there or why (as a result of ECT) she often forgot our names and appeared to think we were her siblings.

    I discovered my mother’s body beside my sleeping father and had to wake him and phone for an ambulance. I had to tell our neighbours who took my sister back to their house before the ambulance and the police arrived. I had to tell my brother and try to comfort him while my father dealt with everything else. I became a very poor substitute for my mother at the age of 14. My father was obviously grief stricken and was subsequently prescribed antidepressants which triggered epileptic seizures and again I ended up taking a parent to hospital and wandering if they would be coming home but not knowing what would happen to us if they didn’t.

    My brother became very angry and withdrawn and my sister just wanted to be comforted because she wanted her mother back. We became very close but our relationship with our brother was never the same again.

    We all survived and went on to marry and have children but my brother’s 2 marriages broke down, mine ended after 12 years and eventually my sister’s did too. She developed a severe depression and sadly in 2009 she hanged herself in her garage, knowing that I would be the one to discover her body and deal with everything, from telling her ex-husband to phoning my poor brother with the news. My brother was very angry with me for not telling him she’d become so ill and the fact that she’d begged me not to tell him was, in his eyes, unforgivable. He remains quite distant now, but we do sometimes talk and he was very supportive when I became depressed in 2011. He has also experienced depression himself since that time.

    When my sister was initially diagnosed with depression the team treating her suggested that her reaction to her marital breakdown was as a result of the huge sense of loss she experienced when we lost our mother and her extended family who blamed my father for my mother’s death. He was very distant from his own family so we felt very much alone, just the four of us of whom now only my brother and I survive. We became estranged from my father about 10yrs after my mother’s death because his new partner was a very domineering person who preferred to keep my father to herselfmand he would meet us in secret but the meetings were very brief and he was never able to spend time with our children, she didn’t even tell us he was ill, I saw his name in the “Death Announcements” in our local paper and once again I had to tell my siblings of the death of one of our parents. Shortly before she died my sister managed to track down both my mother and father’s families and sadly we were all reunited at my sister’s funeral.

    I’m sorry this is such a long post but what I really wanted to say was that you can overcome such loss, it takes a long time and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone but I am so grateful I had my beautiful mother and baby sister for as long as I did. The love we all shared didn’t die with them, I carry it with me always.

    • Your post conveys a very sad and poignant story. I feel like the untimely death of my mother, and then of my sister, have been quite significant in shaping my adult life.
      My mom took her own life at the age of 55, by carbon monoxide poisoning in the garage of our home. She had run away from home twice and tried to overdose on sleeping pills in nearby motels when I was a senior in high school. She was in the psych ward at St. Anthony hospital for a few weeks. She killed herself on the day I came home from my first semester at college and I believe she wanted my father and me to find her.
      I am still angry that she bottled up and would not talk to the family about her troubles and discontent, and that she didn’t leave a note, which might have shed some light on her despair and dissuade some of our guilt.
      My angelic older sister died of advanced leukemia at the age of 33. She was petite, popular and charming, and also fragile. She lived 9 months after her diagnosis, leaving behind an immature needy husband and a very bright 2-yr-old son. The husband remarried a jealous wife, who tried to murder my sister’s son for insurance money. She left him with permanent brain damage and multiple other injuries. It is up to me to provide for and love my beloved blind and bed-ridden nephew, and I know my sister is his guardian angel.
      Had my sister survived her son would never have been injured. He would have enjoyed a normal life and have been able to be an independent person.
      I have most of all missed not having had an adult relationship with my sister. It must be a wonderful thing to go through life’s seasons with the one person who knows you best, your sibling. I will always miss Cheryl.

      • Profile photo of Eleanor Haley

        Oh my goodness Patti, I am so sorry for everything you (and your family) have been through. That is a horrifying story about your nephew. It’s hard to believe such evil and greed exists in this world. I’m glad your nephew has you, although I know being a caregiver can be stressful at times. I hope you have people around you for support.


  51. Thank you for talking about this subject our siblings matter there is a bond there no one can fill, I to have suffered the lost of both my brothers , back in 1981 my brother Mike was playing with a gun in front of his friend it went off and killed him he was only 13 died on May 13 I was 14 yrs old and my other brother Bobby was 15 yrs old it was hard but to young to really understand everybody pushed us aside family drifted away our school friends helped us get through it and really they dident even know they were helping us by just wanting to hang out is what we needed cuz we just weren’t getting it from the family now looking back on it in a adault point of view everybody was just broken and so were me and my brother me and him always vowed to never fight again and we never did we loved each other and only us two knew we had each other and we both understood were we have come from and what we have been through well 3 years ago when Bobby was only 47 he got colon cancer and he passed on Aug 13 at 47 years old i now was faced with losing my soul my brother my only sibling left I was and am still broken I had to watch these two young healthy strong brothers die on tragic deaths and I am sick inside people think your crazy but they don’t understand everything you have endured and everything that goes through your head like why am I still here watching them die killed me watching them being so young it takes you back to your child hood you handle it then and you as children I felt like I was still a child watching my brothers die and they were my brothers dieing . Another for me they both died on the 13 I’m scared every month the 13 th day comes up , I go through every day alone knowing I will never grow old with them watching my mom broken burying two children also again what little few family left watching them disappear you get scare what do you who is going to help take care of me if something is to happen all kinds of things that go through your mind . We need more support with cancer hitting the world as hard as its hitting there are going to be more of us out there and when it hits you at a young age you find ways to bounce back but when Bobby died 3 years ago I got hit hard with mikes death to from 1981 . Please we need to have people focus on this subject and I would love to help in anyway I can . Please anybody reading this love your brothers and sister cuz once they are all gone your childhood is gone . Parent are not suppose to bury there children and siblings aren’t suppose to go through it alone .

  52. Thank you for so much time put into this. My younger sister passed about three years ago and I have yet to see anything like this out there ! Keep it up id love to see where this can go in the future!

    • How long did it take. It’s been only 3 days for me. I lost my baby sister and she left behind a beautiful smart 9 year old and every time I see her I see my sister. I break down one day the next I feel calm. I don’t know how to handle it.

  53. My brother shawn died on August 2 2015. We were so close and I miss him with all my heart and soul. I do feel siblings are the forgotten mourners and we feel as though we have to support our parents more than ever. Which isn’t a bad thing but I would like some support too as I get weak and saddened behind closed doors and just fall apart. Siblings may feel they need to protect their parents sense it is the first time they ever see them helpless and lost. It’s a difficult time. My brother was amazing the bible has helped me so much with comfort.

  54. The forgotten grievers. I lost my half brother 5 years ago, he was 12, I was 23. He had a freak accident. We didn’t live together, and I think because of that my sisters and I were totally forgotten. Friends of my dad and stepmum’s family would write condolence cards without mentioning my sisters and I. It was always oh your poor parents, never how are you coping. I was coping shit. But no one asked, it seemed no one cared. And I felt guilty for the times I called my dad because I needed him, but knew I was taking him away from my brothers mum when they needed each other.
    There was no help or support from anyone, they and my stepbrother had councilling while my sisters and I had nothing. I now admin a Facebook group with a lovely small community of brother and sisters. Everyone is friendly, everyone helps each other, and I am grateful that I along with the group members am able to offer the support and advice to other bereaved siblings, that I needed so much.

  55. Thanks for sharing this great article. It’s been five years since I lost my brother, KIA in Afghan. He left a wife, a son at 5 mos. (now 5yrs.), my mother and younger sister. I’ve been and still are the backbone of this family, never having the time to deal with my own grief. It’s hard to care for yourself when so many people depend on you. Just because you seem to keep things together and functional for everyone else, they forget that you’re torn inside and also grieving. I was close to my brother, we were only a year or so apart, it’s been hard for me to keep my own personal life together. It’s true, Guilt is something that never leaves you, from wishing to have protect them to remembering the last hug or good bye. Surprisingly a lo of support systems, including military, are for spouse, parents, or children of the deceased. Siblings for some reason are always forgotten …

  56. Thank you for talking about this…my brother was not expected to live when born and lived five wonderful years…his death, although, expected was still very hard. It is something, that honestly I have finally started to really grieve 35 years later. Knowing that my parents are reunited with him is what keeps me going. Thanks for the great blogs.

    • May I ask how old you were when he passed? I worry about my other children since their sister died. We go as a family to grief counseling since her passing.

  57. My husband lost his sister when they were in their teens. His entire family still grieves over her but he really can’t even talk about her. It’s been 23 years. I have watched his parents go from not celebrating holidays to embracing them and enjoying them. They are able to talk about her and share stories about her. They are gradually working through their grief but he is not at all. When our children ask questions about her he can’t talk about it. I encourage them to refer their questions to their grandmother (I never met his sister) because it causes him pain to even mention her. I truly believe he could benefit from a sibling loss support group.

  58. It is horrible that people forget about the friends of the deceased. Friends are important in our lives

  59. Wow, you covered it extremely well, I can relate to so much of this. My only brother was 5 years younger, we lost our dad about a year before him. I already felt that patriarch role falling on me after Dad passed, but I had my bother to share it with. After he died I had his wife, kids, my Mom, my sisters and others coming to me. At least that’s how it felt. (which is okay) There was a tremendous out pouring of support for his wife & kids and my Mom. Which was great, but I kept looking around for my support and it just wasn’t there. I eventually found your site and a couple of sibling loss on-line groups but nothing local.
    Thanks for this post.

  60. Wow, you really know how to hit the nail on the head with the great and awful timing. 12 yrs ago tomorrow, my best friend and for all intents and purposes brother, died of sepsis, he was 7 yrs old. He and I had the same medical issues and bonded as we fought the same battles and went through the same things. We were closer than many blood siblings. When I woke up that morning twelve years ago and found out that he was gone, it felt like someone ripped my heart right out of my chest and ran it over with a truck. I felt so guilty that I was still alive, that there was nothing that I could do, and that I would never have the chance to tell him how much he meant to me, I was angry because he deserved a heck of a lot better than what he got, because the doctors at the hospital had failed to save him… I was lonely because I seemed to be the last person on earth anyone expected to miss him… I hated, and still hate everything he missed out on, that he never got to play real baseball, he would never go to high school, let alone college… I wanted us to grow up together thick as thieves the way it had always been… now that future, all those years we had ahead of us, I would have to spend without him… I ask you… how is it any different than if Matt and I had been brother and sister by blood?

  61. My only sibling Sean died 16 yrs ago. And you are right, we are the forgotten ones. Everyone focuses on the parents and that is it. We are pushed aside. Some of us are told to forget our grief by our parents I know I was. My parents told me to get over, stop talking about it that I was driving everyone around me crazy. I ended up having a nervous breakdown over my brothers death, because I had no one to talk to, no therapist or anything. I have learned over the last few within myself that I can put him in a safe place in my heart where I can deal with my emotions. I haven’t forgotten him, but I can cope now. I still have my bad days every now and then, but I know now how to deal with them. I know he wouldn’t want to self destruct.

  62. Thanks for this post. Loss of a sibling truly is not something that is spoken about enough. I recently wrote the grief I feel since losing my sister which others may connect with:

  63. Thank you for posting on sibling grief. I agree, there are little resources for sibling grief, let alone adult sibling grief due to loss of sibling via suicide. Not only is sibling grief overshadowed and downplayed, there are few sibling support groups out there for this type of loss. Suicide is still a societal stigma and it makes grieving a prolonged pain. In the Bible Belt area, for example (where I live), my grief was compounded by a polarizing general attitude of judgement and isolation. I was actually shocked by some of the comment my mother and I received (even from Christians), like, “was your brother on drugs”, “you don’t go to heaven when you take your own life”, or “that is so selfish and sinful”, or “God doesn’t forgive those who commit suicide”, and the list goes on. It was very difficult at the time, now it has been 11 years so I am well through the acceptance process, (but still, the pain is a wound that never really heals, especially since it happened on my birthday). I feel for anyone who has gone through this type of grief. Thank you so much to Eleanor and Litsa for all of your work to keep this website up and running.

    • I am the oldest of 6 (now 5 ) lost a brother 3 years ago to suicide. He was an identical twin, and 47 years old. My brother’s death will be my catharsis for starting a group for people who need grief workshops and resources, and I welcome any input from those who have experieced this horific situation in their lives. I agree that there is a stigma on the word “SUICIDE” and not a lot of resources pertaining to this topic out there. I also agree that people in general say some non comforting things when this happens.
      Let us all pull together with this experience in our lives, and learn to share and love one another, and to not take anything for granted. Thank you all for this insightful website, and for those who were brave enough to share their feelings.
      It was definitely a GOD WINK – as my brothers anniversary was 4/9 and here it is 4/11.

      • My twin passed April 2016 and now it is September 2016 and I am at a loss. My twin and I are 47 years old and I feel a loss I cannot fathom. I have many thoughts about him dying and finding him lying on the floor I cannot explain. I do not know where to turn and feel ashamed to a point that I am a 47 year old male and cannot handle my brother’s unexpected death. I do not know if anyone can understand how important he was in my life or if I am able to find a substitute.

        • Ronnie – I am a 47 year old twinless-twin. There is no age appropriate response. Pain from loss does not consider age. Pain is pain and it hurts. Some days are harder than others… Especially when you have a tough situation and feel stress, because we are primed to turn towards our twin for comfort… Only to feel the sting over and over again that you cannot connect with them. Grasping for breath at that point. We have to walk around and pretend that everything is alright everyday… Even though you may not even feel dignity. It is a hard life man. I pray that you have happiness and nice times while you are here in this world. Alafia.

  64. A very well-written and accurate post — thank you. There *are* so few resources on sibling grief, especially for adult or (bare) adult siblings. “Overshadowed grief” is a new term for me, and I needed a term for this. It’s not that my grief was unacknowledged, just that it’s always treated as less significant, less earth-shattering, less life-altering. Just “less”. In the shadow of your parents’ mountain of grief, it’s always less.

    • That was my exact experience when my brother died almost 9 years ago.

    • My brother died a year ago in May and it’s been really hard. I’m so glad I found this, because it’s really hard to talk to my parents because I see the anguish they’re in, and when I talk to my aunts, they basically say, “Yeah we’re sad too but how is your mom?”

  65. Marty Tousley (@GriefHealing)August 18, 2015 at 11:29 amReply

    You’ll find a long list of resources I’ve assembled on my “Death of a Sibling or Twin” page, here:

    • Profile photo of Eleanor Haley

      Thanks for sharing Marty. I’ll link to this on our resource page as well.

    • I lost my sister in January this year. She was diagnosed with cancer and died 8 weeks later. She was a teenager when I was born and became my mentor , my confidant and my friend. I feel angry towards those in our large extended family who were dismissive even mean during her illness. My niece has just been diagnosed with cancer and I reacted badly to the news. She will be ok as she is young and string. Not being understood by some and losing my beautiful sister has changed me for ever and left a hole that will never be filled.

      • I lost my sister to Cancer and feel the same way. Misunderstood by my other brothers and sisters who were not there for my sister during her 4 years of suffering, Lymphoma. I was her caregiver in the end and my sisters millinial sons now have diss connected from me. I was never paid during my time of caregiving. I rented my own home close to my sister. It has been 4 years now since she died. I am only now getting my financial life back in order career wise after moving from New England to Chicago. I know your hardship and emotional heartache. Losing a sister has been harder then losing both my parents who I loved with all my heart. Today my sisters oldest son married at 37 a successful man he is. I cried most of the day, all these years later as I was not invited to his wedding. My sister his Mother talked about this day for his entire lifetime. I also have another Sister…she also was not invited. We came from Educated happily married parents and my sister was happily married as well, until she became a widow at 47. I want to understand as well as you, why family detaches from us.

      • I lost my sister to Cancer and feel the same way. Misunderstood by my other brothers and sisters who were not there for my sister during her 4 years of suffering, Lymphoma. I was her caregiver in the end and my sisters millinial sons now have diss connected from me. I was never paid during my time of caregiving. I rented my own home close to my sister. It has been 4 years now since she died. I am only now getting my financial life back in order career wise after moving from New England to Chicago. I know your hardship and emotional heartache. Losing a sister has been harder then losing both my parents who I loved with all my heart. Today my sisters oldest son married at 37 a successful man he is. I cried most of the day, all these years later as I was not invited to his wedding. My sister his Mother talked about this day for his entire lifetime. I also have another Sister…smhe also was not invited. We came from Educated happily married parents and my sister was happily married as well, until she became a widow at 47. I want to understand as well as you, why family detaches from us.

  66. Adult sibling loss – where ones’ sibling dies when both are adults–is perhaps the least supported and written about. There are few resources for this phenomenon, which happens all the time. It is made more complicated precisely because of the changes in roles, the need (often) for the surviving sibling to assist their grieving parents (who have by definition lost a child), as well as other family members. Having lost both my sisters, as adults, I am working on a book to help other adult sibling loss people. The grief is, in many ways, a different kind of grief.

    • I have, over the years lost two siblings…one was 33 and the other earlier this year was just 59…I really relate to the “forgotten mourner” comment early in this article. Mine especially felt and feels trivialized as my brother lived several provinces away…after returning home from going to his home town with my other siblings and family to lay him to rest and look after his affairs I felt “flat” for several weeks… Life is busy and the only option is to move on with life but I think about him daily, feel a deep loss and am profoundly sad for his struggles.

    • please do work on a book, I am still surprised at the lack ofm information and resources regarding adult sibling grief.

  67. Thank you for this post – especially today.
    In a few weeks it will be exactly seven years since my sister committed suicide, but as I struggle to help my sons cope with their lives since the death of their father, my husband, the person I miss most is my sister. In addition to her professional insights and her wonderful sense of humor, she loved my sons and they loved her, and my sister and I basically raised our sons together. I miss being able to talk the problems through with her, figuring out how to deal with all the hard things together.
    This is one of the blog posts I wrote about missing her:

  68. I’m so happy you made the distinction between types of loss. My younger brother (and only sibling) died almost 4 years ago. It is true that you reevaluate your support circle. I have found there are some people I feel safe opening up to, and some I don’t. Something that helped me was finding a support group of other surviving siblings who truly understood what I was feeling and I could open up to. And since I’ve found them, I have become an active member. There is the online support group (via email) called Mourning Our Brothers and Sisters/MOBS. We also have a Facebook page.
    Thank you again for this post.

  69. Thanks for dealing with types of loss.I think about that a lot and how strongly it affects how we grieve. How about more?

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