Grieving for a Sibling

By July 17, 2017Counselling, Grief and Loss
death of a sibling

Siblings Don’t Die – Do They?

No one ever expects a sibling to die.  Everyone else can experience that but not you. After all your siblings are your lifeblood, your family. Your parents have already passed away. All you have left are your siblings. No one told you that you will spend the rest of your life grieving for a sibling.

You receive a phone call on Monday night, out of the blue to say your brother has just died.  It’s a joke, right?  No, he died of a massive heart attack.

But I was only talking to him last Friday and making plans for him to visit.

You know the sibling on the other end of the phone wouldn’t make up such a terrible lie, even as a joke.  So, how do you process this?  Your brother was the eldest, you were close to him and shared so much.  You spoke to him every day.  You bantered with him on social media.

No one can possibly explain this hole that has suddenly overtaken your family.  Siblings don’t die.  You can’t even bring yourself to tears because the shock has taken over your body.  You want to know all the details.  How he died, when, what time.  No one has all the answers yet.

The funeral plans are in motion.  Times, people, what do I wear that is suitable, something that he would have liked.  Definitely not black, as I know he would have scoffed at black.

You arrive at your sister siblings house and everyone consumes large quantities of alcohol and food.  Tears aren’t on the menu as yet as disbelief is the flavour of the day.

Maybe there was something I could have done.  Deep down when speaking to him on the Friday, I knew something was wrong and couldn’t put my finger on it.  Wait, it’s not my fault.  But, I knew something was wrong. Again, I knew something was wrong.

Ok, it’s expected that parents die as this is the ‘norm’.  But my brother was supposed to be there for eternity.  You all have another drink and sip the time away, remembering, laughing, playing music, your brothers favourite music.

D-Day arrives, the day of the funeral.  It’s ok, I, we can get through this.  My brother, our brother would be saying “get over it, I’m at peace now.”

You are all standing outside of the chapel and the hearse arrives.  Ok, that’s ok.  The car stops, they get out of the hearse and open up the back door.  They pull the coffin out.

The tears just flowed down my face.  That’s my sibling in that box, that’s my brother.  This IS real.  I wasn’t expecting it to be so real.  The coffin is carried into the chapel and everyone takes their place.  You sit there looking around and people send you smiles and you smile back.

Pictures are shown on a slide show of his life and the tears are trickling down the side of my face.  Don’t cry, don’t cry you say to yourself.  Too late, the damn has burst and you need to find the tissues.  Someone should sell tissues at a funeral it would be profitable.  What a sordid thought, but you think of dumb things to distract yourself from the reality of what is happening.

The chapel is packed, you had no idea there would be so many people.  That’s pretty good.  The day ends with more alcohol but on a melancholier note.  Everyone is exhausted.  What a shame my brother isn’t here to see this.  Hold on, that is just so bizarre.  He is not here anymore.  Wow, this is a bit much to digest.  Everyone goes their merry way.

Six months pass and you are listening to a song on the radio.  One of your brother’s favourite tunes.  You start crying. Not just a few tears but uncontrollable waves of salty lines down each side of your cheeks.

A few months pass and you go to pick up the phone wanting to call up your sibling.  Hold on you can’t, he’s not here.  The brain and the heart have gone in opposite directions.  You stop for a moment to catch your breath.  OMG, he is gone.  He really is gone.

You want to pick up the phone to speak with your sister sibling but do I have a right as she is probably trying to cope with her own grief.  Now, you need to talk and now you are ready to talk and share all your feelings and emotions with someone who doesn’t care how many times you go over the same story again, again and again.  You have finally realized you need to grieve.

There is no set time with grieving.  There is no set process.  You need to let your body go through the emotions, to feel the sadness, the emptiness.

Losing a sibling breaks that sibling connection.  It’s a connection that no one else can replace.  You may go through shock again.  It’s ok, there is no flow chart.  There are stages but these are not set.

Your life will carry on but from a different point again as I did when my parents died.  You learn to live with the loss and you learn to cope with the emotions.  You have done it before and you can do it again.

Grieving the death of a sibling is dealing with a part of you that has gone.  You never stop grieving.  It just changes. Throughout the years you think about times you had with your brother.  You may spend a few moments crying.

We all need to learn that it’s ok to feel emotions, it’s ok to cry, it’s ok to feel lost at times and it’s ok to feel depressed.  Most importantly, it’s ok to talk to someone who you can share these emotions with.  It’s ok to get some guidance.

Siblings do die, and it is important to grieve.

In Remembrance of my brother 28/11/2011


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pamelaI am an accredited Social Worker and a member of the AASW.  My passion is about providing a unique service for anyone, anywhere, anytime.
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Pamela Vandersande
BSW, Dip. Couns.