When a Brother or Sister Dies

“I was an average teenager. I had my friends and school activities. My family was just my family. Then the worst nightmare imaginable happened. My sister died.”
Jennifer, age 17

In a world suddenly gone crazy, how can you keep your balance? How can you cope with something that is shattering to you as well as to the adults most important in your life?

This brochure is meant to offer some direction and choices in order to help you find your way in a world that perhaps seems unfair and unpredictable.
The emotions you are experiencing may be the same as or completely different than those of other family members.

Please remember:

You may experience:

You may feel emotions like those listed above at different times, maybe even long after your brother or sister’s death. It can be frightening to suddenly think about such things. But other young people, just like you, have had a brother or sister die. They struggled through feelings very much like yours. They have survived, and so can you.

“But I feel so strange sometimes. I can’t talk to my parents. I just keep my feelings to myself so I won’t upset them anymore. They’re so overprotective now. They probably wouldn’t let me out of their sight if they knew how I felt. Mostly I just want to get away with my friends, but they aren’t the same anymore either. Sometimes they pity me. I hate feeling so mixed-up.” Bill, age 16

It is hard to talk about emotions, especially to parents. If you are concerned about upsetting either your mother or your father and feel your friends won’t understand, seek out a sympathetic listener (relative, teacher, counselor, minister, or another bereaved brother or sister). It may surprise you how much they can help you with your grief.

The death of your brother or sister leaves you in a situation for which you have had little or no preparation. At an age when just growing up can be a struggle, this experience may make you feel helpless and like a little child again. This is very normal, as many grieving siblings feel the need to hug and be hugged and be cared for when they are hurting.

You may also feel the need to fill that empty place left in your family by your brother or sisters death. Be patient with yourself and with other members of your family as you each try to find your balance and role in a new family structure.

It’s okay:
To cry and feel depressed. If the feelings get too scary or overwhelming, find a caring friend (no matter what age) to talk it out with you.
It’s okay:
To want to copy some of your brother’s or sister’s habits and interests; but be yourself, too.
It’s okay:
To “live in the past” sometimes. This is one way to keep alive the memory of your brother or sister. However, you have a life, too–one that should be lived to the fullest.
It’s okay:
To have fun and enjoy life, to laugh again.
It’s okay:
To forgive yourself for any fights, arguments, or mean things you might have said or done to your brother or sister.
It’s okay:
To go on living.
It is okay to take care of yourself, to be kind patient and loving to yourself. It is always okay to grieve in your own unique way for as long as you need to grieve.

Unhealthy Grieving

You may find that even normal day-to-day activities are tiring; grieving takes a lot of energy. Try to avoid making drastic changes in your life during this difficult time.

Commit yourself to getting though the emotional and physical work of grieving. Other young people have found writing in a journal or diary, prayer, poetry, sports, music, and art as positive outlets for their feelings.

Also, share your grief experiences–if you can–with other bereaved siblings. Their stories of how they coped can give you choices to consider and hope for your own future.

You and your family are changed by all the sadness you have experienced. The strain each of you feels is common and usually decreases with time. Each family member has his own timetable for coming to terms with his feelings. Be patient with each other and these very individual needs.

Tragedies as well as successes, faced daily, can strengthen you for tomorrow. Allow the emotional bond you have with your brother or sister to have a positive effect on your future.

This brochure sponsored in memory of their son and brother, Jacob Snively,
by Anne, Jim, and Ben Snively

© 2014 The Compassionate Friends, USA


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