Losing an Adult Sibling

One of the most emotional and distressing issues in life is the loss of an adult sibling. Even more so is, if the sibling left before their time, when so much of their life was still ahead of them. Questions such as why or how could this happen keep arising with no known answers. And then, there is the missing space that was the sibling's place in the family.

Adult siblings play an important role in the family dynamics. They are the longest relationship in life. Siblings become our friends; provide companionship, love, and support from childhood through adulthood. Being a sibling creates a unique connection like no other relationship. Sibling support is vital for the strength of each individual sibling. It is shared strength and without it, so is the identity of each remaining sibling. As a result, surviving siblings must relearn to live life, re-establish who they are, what is important in life, and how they relate with others.

Unfortunately, society does not recognize adult sibling loss as significant, leaving bereaved siblings feeling as if their grief is ignored. It is the parents or the spouse of the sibling who is most recognized for the concern of their loss. But the grief that is felt by siblings is very real and sometimes devastating. Adults siblings are assumed the responsibility of care-taking for their parents because of their consumed grief. By doing so, the grief process is put on hold.

Adult sibling loss and grief is profound and impacts life on many levels. The journey can be painful and solitary as siblings learn to cope and understand the loss. Surviving adult siblings call their loss "disenfranchised grief", meaning that society fails to classify their mourning as a legitimate loss. After all, the sibling relationship is as significant in adulthood as it is in childhood. The necessary support to heal is not validated causing grieving siblings to hide their feelings resulting in depression for which many struggle with for years.

Very little is written about this unresolved grief among siblings. Therefore, the purpose and the information needed to give insight on this topic. May it give those who have lost a beloved sibling comfort and solace.

Sorrow by P.G. White

She rises out of nowhere, like a wave from the sea.
Slowly at first, silently, the crests and peaks;
Still I have choice
I can turn away, go to work, watch a movie, play a game . . .

But I know sorrow well.
Though I turn away, she will wait,
perfectly patient,
until I am still,
then crush me with all her accumulated power.

Once I had angry walls to shut her out,
But her incessant pounding tore them down.
So now, when she arises,
I turn to her and say,
Here I am, I know you, sorrow.
She crashes on my shoreline,
And sorrow and I are one
Until, trailing frothy whitecaps,
She sweeps away.


Siblings of Children With Cancer Feel Left Out
ScienceDaily (May 25, 2009) Siblings of cancer victims often feel left out and have nobody to share their grief with. However, the illness may help strengthen the bond between a healthy and cancer-stricken sibling. This is shown in a doctoral thesis at the Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg, Sweden. read more . . .
The First Year of Grief: Help for the Journey
The First Year of Grief: Help for the Journey

Understand the nature of grief and loss and their potential impact on all aspects of your life: physical, financial, emotional, social and spiritual. Learn how to move through grief actively and make the process of mourning a healing one. Find support and guidance in dealing with the many facets of grief. [Learn more]