Siblings Corner

Thank you to all those who have been in touch to say that they would like to be in contact with other bereaved brothers and sisters.

For those of you who are reading this newsletter for the first time, “Sibling’s Corner” puts bereaved brothers and sisters in contact with each other for mutual support and also gives help to those looking to set up support groups.
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The death of a child is a family crisis no less for the siblings than for the parents. Surviving siblings may feel abandoned because grieving parents no longer have the emotional energy to care for them. They may feel unloved as they experience family friends putting the deceased child on a pedestal. They may feel incredibly guilty, remembering every bout of sibling rivalry, every unkind word, and every slammed door. They may feel unworthy to be alive, longing for answers to explain why their brother or sister died and they didn’t. And they may, therefore, seek conscious or unconscious ways to self-destruct: running away from home, using alcohol and other drugs, taking on characteristics of the dead siblings and thus diminishing their own image.

 

Following are suggestions children have shared about how parents can help them when a brother or sister has died:

1. Allow siblings to participate fully in funeral plans and memorial activities. Let them the funeral home. Let them choose some of the music, write and/or read a memorial to their brother or sister, go with you or alone to cemetery visits.

  1. Share with the siblings all factual information as it becomes known. Being “left out” only enhances a growing sense of not being important choose whether or not they want to see their sibling at the funeral home. Let them choose some of the music, write and/or read a memorial to their brother or sister, go with you or alone to cemetery visits.
    1. When you see children who remind you of your child, point them out to the siblings and explain the grief spasm it has caused. Mysterious behaviour enhances the sibling’s fear of being left out.
    2. Ask the siblings to be with you occasionally as you grieve. If you always grieve in private, the emotional distance between you will widen.
    3. Talk with siblings both about pleasant memories and unpleasant memories of the dead child. This prevents pedestal placing.
    4. Don’t tell siblings to “be strong” for someone else. That is too great a burden to carry.
    5. Understand that it may be easier for siblings to talk to friends, or another trusted adult, than to parents. They desperately do not want to add to their parents’ devastation so may seek counsel and understanding elsewhere.
    6. Remember that you can’t change the past. But you can face the present and guide the future. Your family will forever be changed – it does not always have to remain devastated.

[Janice Lord, TCF, Anne Arundel County, MD]

 

  1. Allow siblings to participate fully in funeral plans and memorial activities. Let them the funeral home. Let them choose some of the music, write and/or read a memorial to their brother or sister, go with you or alone to cemetery visits.
  2. Share with the siblings all factual information as it becomes known. Being “left out” only enhances a growing sense of not being important to the family.
  3. When you see children who remind you of your child, point them out to the siblings and explain the grief spasm it has caused. Mysterious behaviour enhances the sibling’s fear of being left out.
  4. Ask the siblings to be with you occasionally as you grieve. If you always grieve in private, the emotional distance between you will widen.
  5. Talk with siblings both about pleasant memories and unpleasant memories of the dead child. This prevents pedestal placing.
  6. Don’t tell siblings to “be strong” for someone else. That is too great a burden to carry.
  7. Understand that it may be easier for siblings to talk to friends, or another trusted adult, than to parents. They desperately do not want to add to their parents’ devastation so may seek counsel and understanding elsewhere.
  8. Remember that you can’t change the past. But you can face the present and guide the future. Your family will forever be changed – it does not always have to remain devastated.
 

It’s The Music That Bonds The Soul

The room you once lived in

Doesn’t look the same.

The people who used to call you

Never mention your name.

 

The car you used to drive,

They may not make them anymore;

And all the things you once treasured

Are boxed beyond closet doors.

 

The clothes you set the trends by

Are surely out of date.

The people you owed money to

Have wiped away the slate.

 

Things have changed and changed again

Since you went away,

But some things have remained the same

Each and every day … .

 

Like this aching in my heart –

A scar that just won’t heal –

Or the way a special song

Can change the way I feel.

 

Brother, you must know that the music

Bonds us and will keep us close;

Because secretly I know deep in my heart

It’s the music you miss the most.

 

So let the world keep on turning,

And time can take its toll.

For as long as the music keeps playing

You’ll be alive and dancing in my soul.

[Stacie Gillam, TCF, N Oklahoma City, OK]

The death of a child is a family crisis no less for the siblings than for the parents. Surviving siblings may feel abandoned because grieving parents no longer have the emotional energy to care for them. They may feel unloved as they experience family friends putting the deceased child on a pedestal. They may feel incredibly guilty, remembering every bout of sibling rivalry, every unkind word, and every slammed door. They may feel unworthy to be alive, longing for answers to explain why their brother or sister died and they didn’t. And they may, therefore, seek conscious or unconscious ways to self-destruct: running away from home, using alcohol and other drugs, taking on characteristics of the dead siblings and thus diminishing their own image.

 

Following are suggestions children have shared about how parents can help them when a brother or sister has died:

 

  1. Allow siblings to participate fully in funeral plans and memorial activities. Let them choose whether or not they want to see their sibling at the funeral home. Let them choose some of the music, write and/or read a memorial to their brother or sister, go with you or alone to cemetery visits.
  2. Share with the siblings all factual information as it becomes known. Being “left out” only enhances a growing sense of not being important to the family.
  3. When you see children who remind you of your child, point them out to the siblings and explain the grief spasm it has caused. Mysterious behaviour enhances the sibling’s fear of being left out.
  4. Ask the siblings to be with you occasionally as you grieve. If you always grieve in private, the emotional distance between you will widen.
  5. Talk with siblings both about pleasant memories and unpleasant memories of the dead child. This prevents pedestal placing.
  6. Don’t tell siblings to “be strong” for someone else. That is too great a burden to carry.
  7. Understand that it may be easier for siblings to talk to friends, or another trusted adult, than to parents. They desperately do not want to add to their parents’ devastation so may seek counsel and understanding elsewhere.
  8. Remember that you can’t change the past. But you can face the present and guide the future. Your family will forever be changed – it does not always have to remain devastated.
[Janice Lord, TCF, Anne Arundel County, MD]

You’ve got to be Strong Now“You’ve got to be strong now, for your parents.”
How many of you heard that when your brother or
sister died? It generally comes from some well
meaning relative or family friend.
Yes, your parents were grieving and they had a right
to as well. They lost of child. Someone that was
important to them, but you didn’t. You’ve got nothing
to grieve about. You didn’t lose a child. You didn’t just
lose a brother or sister you lost more. You lost any or all of the following:
A playmate who could keep you company as a child.
A dining companion when everyone else seemed to
desert you. A rival in many arenas. A critic of
everything bad you did. A fan of all your good points
and deeds. A personal doctor who looked after you
when you were ill. A conscience that told you what
the right thing to do was when you didn’t know. A
bank manager who loaned money to you when you
were broke. A personal secretary who posted your
mail, answered the phone and answered the door. A
personal slave. A body guard. A soul mate. Your
confidant. The person that when all looked lost, took
your hand and said everything would be alright. Your
best friend.
You didn’t lose a person. You lost a whole swag of
people. No wonder you have all this grief. It’s no
wonder you have all these feelings and emotions
swirling around your body. You have a right to grieve
too and don’t let anybody stop you.
[Warren Pynt in memory of his brother Graham]

Siblings Speak Out
The following ideas were formulated from the Siblings Speak Out workshop held in Columbus, Ohio last July. The workshop was part of the 11th National TCF Conference. The workshop consisted of five siblings leading a rap session between siblings and parents. Hopefully some of your own feelings have been summarized here for you to read and share. We thank Jacqueline Bruhn from Arlington, Virginia for summarizing the discussion for us.

Surviving children understand a parents’ fear of another loss after the death of their child, but they feel that they should be allowed to live a normal life.
Some are concerned when their parent/parents keep their grief bottled up inside and will not talk it out with them.
Some parents want their child to grieve immediately. They will grieve when they are ready.
Siblings resent people telling them that they must be strong for their parents. Many took this advice only to crash years later.
Just as the relationship to the dead child was different between sibling and parent, they will grieve differently. Many parents want their surviving children to grieve as they do.
Surviving children resent being compared constantly to their dead sibling at home, in school, among relatives and friends. Again, they are different people.
They feel that parents tend to put the dead child on a pedestal, that they never did anything wrong, when the surviving sibling knows differently.
Bereaved parents put more emphasis on the child that is not here and forgets the child that is here.
Just because a sibling is not grieving openly doesn’t mean that he/she isn’t grieving. They could be doing it privately.
Bereaved siblings are different people after the death of their brother/sister just like their parents are. Their personalities may change, values also. They view life as precious and are fearful that they may lose someone else. They sometimes tend to be overprotective of their parents.
Don’t try to force siblings to attend TCF meetings. They will go when they feel they are ready, or need to.
Surviving siblings have a strong need to know that they are loved as much as their dead sibling. They get messages that the dead child was loved more. “Would you grieve so deeply if it was me?”
If siblings refuse to bring up the subject of their dead sibling, many times it’s because they don’t want to cause the parents any more pain or to make them cry. Siblings may be talking to a friend about it instead.
Don’t force siblings to go to the cemetery if they don’t want to go. Just as adults have varying needs on cemetery-going, so do siblings.
Siblings just want parents to be there when they need them … .
When you talk, talk with your children, don’t talk at them; don’t talk to them.
[National Sibling Newsletter, Winter 1988]

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