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A Letter for Someone Who Lost a Sibling to Suicide

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Dear New Survivor,

As a person struggling with the loss of my brother, I found there were little to no resources for how to grieve a sibling. Sibling deaths are often forgotten, misunderstood, or just overlooked. I too was guilty of overlooking my own grief. I thought, How can I be sad for myself when my parents lost a child? So here are a few key points I want you to remember when grieving a sibling:

Sibling grief may feel ousted by the grief of other family members.

After my brother died, people continuously came up to me saying how sorry they were for my parents losing a child. People would tell me they could not imagine what they were going through. This caused me to believe that my feelings for his loss shouldn’t be this strong. But luckily, my parents were great about asking me how I felt. Before I moved out, we would talk about him often. Now we reminisce about him and talk about what we think he would be up to now.

Going from two to one.  

If you are now learning how to be an only child, like I am, it takes time. Learn how you want to answer those dreaded questions. “How many siblings do you have?” This was a tough one for me. Do I say I’m an only child and pretend he just never existed? Do I say yes and just change the subject, not going further into the topic? Or do I just answer that yes, I had a brother and wait to see if the person wants to delve deeper into the conversation? For me, I am honest about it. I don’t want to hide the fact that I had a brother. A sibling is the first friend you make in life and often your longest relationship. You will witness more life events with a sibling than anyone else. You share genetics, family, and culture. You learn how to communicate with others through talking to your sibling. If people want to ask about my brother, I want to answer about him. I want to share how amazing he was and not feel embarrassed with how he died.

Surviving children may lash out toward each other.

Maybe you were closer to your sibling who passed and now your other sibling feels like they missed out on some of those moments with their lost sibling. Maybe your sibling was closer to them and you wonder why they didn’t see any signs of struggle. The most important thing to remember is that everyone grieves differently, and it is always better to talk about it with each other rather than holding it in.

You will be OK.

At first, it may not seem like it. But you will be OK. People who die by suicide aren’t doing it to be malicious or to hurt you. They are in such a great deal of pain and struggling that they feel there is no other choice. Suicide, mental illness, and addiction are diseases we blame people for. But in reality, people die from suicide just like they die from heart disease. Why it happened… that wasn’t your fault. Don’t blame yourself. Take everything one day at a time, and eventually, you will be OK.


A Grieving Sibling

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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Thinkstock photo by Kosher Diva

Originally published: January 15, 2017
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