How can I Cope with Grief for a Sibling?

C. K. Lanz

Coping with grief for a sibling is a difficult and unfortunately common process that can consist of unexpected emotions and several stages, such as denial, depression, and acceptance. Grieving people may consider reaching out to others for support, joining a support group, and being especially aware of their own well-being. Creative activities like writing or painting can be important outlets for emotions and memories. Grieving for a sibling is a process unique to each person, can commonly take at least a year, and should not be rushed or truncated.

Professional counseling can help someone who has lost a sibling come to terms with their feelings.
Professional counseling can help someone who has lost a sibling come to terms with their feelings.

Learning more about these stages of grief can make the experience more familiar. Denial is the first of the classic stages of grief for a sibling or any departed loved one. The grieving party denies the experience of death. Anger at having to live through the death typically follows denial. Bargaining and depression eventually yield to acceptance of the death and the resumption of a normal way of life.

Maintaining a journal can help a person who has lost a sibling cope with their grief.
Maintaining a journal can help a person who has lost a sibling cope with their grief.

While passing through the most acute stages of grief for a sibling, expressing a range of emotions and respecting memories can be cathartic. Writing a journal of thoughts and feelings or sharing a memory with someone who can appreciate it may be helpful forms of expression. The emotions and memories can be positive or negative, just as long as they are actively expressed in some way.

Finding solace in others may help ease the grief of losing a sibling.
Finding solace in others may help ease the grief of losing a sibling.

Joining a support group can be an easy way to connect with others who are experiencing a similar process. One-on-one grief counseling is an option for those who are not comfortable sharing in group settings. It is crucial to acknowledge pain as part of the healing process.

Acceptance is the last stage of grief.
Acceptance is the last stage of grief.

Reminders of the sibling can be especially painful because they can unexpectedly evoke powerful emotions and memories years after death. Being prepared for dates like birthdays and holidays by planning a distraction or starting a new tradition in the sibling’s memory can be helpful. Reminiscing about the time spent together may shift the focus from the loss to the positive aspects of the sibling relationship.

Depression is a stage of grief.
Depression is a stage of grief.

People who are grieving should keep a close eye on their own health and well-being. Coping can become even more difficult if compounded by a lack of sleep, dehydration, or illness. It may be difficult to sleep and eat, but neglecting the body’s basic needs can only make the situation worse. Major decisions should be avoided.

Grieving for a sibling is a process unique to each person.
Grieving for a sibling is a process unique to each person.

In extreme cases, grief for a sibling can become painful and truly debilitating. This is commonly called complicated grief and results in prolonged emotions that interfere with the ability to accept the death and resume living. Complicated grief may require medical intervention such as psychotherapy or prescription medication.

In extreme cases, grieving for a sibling can become painful and debilitating.
In extreme cases, grieving for a sibling can become painful and debilitating.

Everyone will show grief for a sibling in a different way. Some may embrace seclusion or reach out in search of support, while others may repress their feelings and act as though nothing has changed. It can be comforting to seek out those who are going through the same experience for support and understanding. This loss may be impossible to overcome completely, but feelings of sorrow, anger, and guilt usually fade with the passing of time, allowing the grieving party to move forward.

People dealing with the loss of a loved one typically lean on those closest to them for support.
People dealing with the loss of a loved one typically lean on those closest to them for support.

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