The loss of any close family member can be a heart-wrenching experience, but it is a very unique experience when you lose a sibling. And there are many factors that can affect how you react to their loss. Some of the things that’ll have an impact on your grief reaction are the age of your sibling at the time of death, your age when they died, and the closeness of the relationship you two shared.
The impact on your emotional well-being lessens as you get older. The reason for this is that the older you get and the more life experience you gain, the better prepared you are when tragedy strikes. You probably won’t have as many questions about death in your 40s as you would in your 20s.
Here are some ways to help you get through your sibling’s death.
1. Connect on Social Media
Social media can be your saving grace when you’re suffering the loss of your sibling. Having access to a group of friends, family, and virtual strangers can help you through some of the darkest times. If you don’t have any immediate family left to turn to when tragedy strikes, there’s always someone available online to listen and offer advice.
Try subscribing to any of the following social media apps available through your mobile phone or computer:
These apps use hashtags (#) that can help you connect to others with similar interests. For example, if you’re needing help coping with your loss, set up a free account on Instagram, and type in #griefsupport. You can also find a list of other users who are either dealing with grief themselves, or people who can lend you their support.
2. Talk it Out
Your friends and family usually love and care about you enough to want to see you successfully navigate through your grief. Different types of grief affect you in different ways, and you never know how it’ll impact you until you experience it.
If you’re having an especially difficult time dealing with your grief, talk to your loved ones about it. Tell them what you’re going through and how they can help you to better cope with your loss. If you don’t know how to ask for help, go online or read books on grief to help you know what to say to get the conversation going.
3. Seek Support
Sometimes there isn’t anyone that you feel comfortable opening up to about your grief and all the different ways that it’s affecting you. Seeking help from online grief support groups may be a good solution for you. Begin by typing in keywords or terms that best describe what you’re dealing with, and see what comes up.
Sometimes you can end up finding several blogs, articles, and websites that are a direct match for what you’re looking for. From there, you can follow links to support groups that best suit your needs. Be wary of those that ask you to pay for a membership or give you access for a fee.
4. Say Your Last Goodbyes
When your brother or sister dies, it's usually a traumatic experience for the surviving siblings. Their death can leave you shaken and confused and feeling somewhat vulnerable.
Grief symptoms don't always show up right away when you first hear the news of a sibling's death. It may take several weeks for you to accept that they've died, especially if they were estranged from you or lived far away.
You may not always have a chance to say your goodbyes before they die, but you can find alternate ways to get closure and move forward with your life following their death. One way that you can do this is by writing a letter to your sibling telling them of all the things you wished you could say before they died. You can seal it in an envelope and bury it with them, or keep it and read it aloud every once in a while.
5. Attend the Funeral
The world’s changing social climate has had a major impact on the attendance of funerals. If your family is planning to hold a memorial service or funeral for your sibling, consider attending as a sign of respect to your loved ones.
The funeral has its roots in cultural and religious traditions. It symbolizes the ushering of the body to its final resting place, and it helps to bring peace and closure to the death of a loved one. Attending this type of service can provide you with needed support from your family and loved ones that you wouldn’t otherwise receive in isolation.
6. Give a Eulogy
Whether your family is planning a traditional funeral service or a virtual one, think about whether eulogizing your brother or sister is welcomed and appropriate. A eulogy should be well thought out and carefully written in a way that honors your deceased sibling. This may not be the right time to air out your grievances.
Sometimes families grow apart and siblings become estranged. If this has happened within your family, giving a eulogy may not be appropriate or welcomed by your surviving family, whether it be your sibling’s children or spouse. Emotions usually run high following a death, so it’s sometimes better to play it safe and maintain a respectful silence when there are issues within the family.
If you decide that giving a eulogy is appropriate, these are some of the things you may want to include:
- An introduction of who you are
- Acknowledgment of their spouse and children, if any
- Expressed gratitude for everyone in attendance
- Funny or meaningful stories about your sibling
- Your siblings greatest accomplishments
- How your sibling impacted your life
- What your sibling meant to you
7. Offer Financial Support
Funerals can get costly with the average traditional funeral costing between $8,000 - $10,000. Cremations are slightly less expensive than that, but can still run into the thousands. Most people who die unexpectedly don’t usually have their final expenses paid for. Most of the time, the family can end up having to pay for these costs out-of-pocket.
Sometimes people find it difficult to ask others for money, even when they need it most. Offering financial support to your family helps to alleviate some of the stress associated with these final expenses.
You can make it easy for them to accept by simply paying toward the outstanding balance directly to the funeral home. Or, you can help set up an account where others can help with donations in any amount that they can afford to give.
8. Host a Memorial Service
If you’re wondering how to memorialize your sibling, ask if you can pay for and host a memorial service in their honor. If your sibling was married at the time of death, funeral etiquette calls for you to ask the surviving spouse for permission to host an event in your sibling’s honor. One reason to check in with them first is that they may already have a service of their own planned.
You’ll avoid the added stress and family drama just by planning ahead and following the rules as closely as possible. If their spouse already has one planned, ask if you can co-host it or share in the expenses. Explain to them why you want to take part in the memorial service and what it means to you in the honoring of your sibling.
9. Share Stories
Everyone loves a good story. Try recalling a few of your own to share with your family. One of the beautiful things about death is that it tends to breathe new life into old and forgotten relationships. Invite the family over for a night of togetherness. Supply them with plenty of tissues, old photo albums, and the retelling of stories involving your deceased sibling.
Not everyone may be able to attend, especially if they’re having a hard time processing their death. You can always encourage all of your family’s presence while emphasizing that participation is not mandatory. Sometimes it’s good to just sit there and let all the good feelings, the love, and support soak in.
10. Keep a Memento
Your sibling’s death might be hard on you and difficult to accept. The initial stages of grief usually show up in a few weeks and can last up to a year. This isn't to say that at the expiration of one year you’ll be back to your old self again. Grief tends to ebb and flow for the first few months, and finally begins to lift at the one-year mark.
You’ll need extra love and support as you deal with your loss during this time.
Consider keeping a memento or reminder of your sibling close at hand for those moments when it’s especially difficult to cope. Things that might help you ease some of the pain and hurt are:
- An old jacket with their scent on it
- A t-shirt of theirs you can sleep in
- A voice or video recording of them
- The keychain they used every day
- A piece of jewelry that still carries their energy
Coping with the Death of Your Sibling
The death of a sibling can be difficult to deal with. Healing from your grief and loss will be challenging for the first few weeks. With time, your sadness will lift.
You should expect that your unbearable grief will transition into a more manageable pain for your loss that slowly begins to heal.