Supporting surviving siblings

Don’t let your surviving children ever emotionally slip away from you.
You have already lost the physical closeness with one child, don’t allow
the emotional equivalent to occur with your other children still here.

Here are some ideas on how to stay connected with your children while traveling through this agonizing journey. Of course, you must always take into account the age of your children and go with your instincts on what you feel would be appropriate.

  • Tell them you love them and this is not their fault!
  • Talk about their sibling with them. Share memories with them.
  • Explain that even though you are devastated by the loss of their brother/sister, you are so thankful to still have them.
  • Don’t hide your own grief from them, but remember to grant yourself a reprieve to still acknowledge all that you still have… them!
  • Explain that you would be just as sad if they were in Heaven instead of their sibling. You love them as much as their brother/sister.
  • Allow them to grieve differently from you. They have a sibling’s grief, not a parent’s grief. They cannot fully empathize with you.
  • Spend time with them but explain that you aren’t able to do all of the same things yet… maybe for a long, long time.
  • Ensure that they believe that their sibling is safe.
  • Try not to make your “Heavenly Child” a “Perfect Child” to them. Even though he/she was precious and wonderful, he/she was a human being and had quirks, flaws and imperfections. Remember the “true” child with them.
  • Ask for their input whenever possible (if they are old enough):
    • Ways to honor their sibling
      (services, planting a tree, scrapbooks)
    • Notes/letters to include with sibling
    • Toys/possessions to be placed in with sibling
    • Design ideas for monument
    • Outfit for their sibling to be laid to rest in
  • Allow them to touch their brother/sister’s things and enter his/her room freely (no matter how difficult). They are more important than things.
  • Check in with their friends, teachers, clergy, etc. to see if they are expressing any emotions or actions that you should be made aware of.
  • LISTEN TO THEM! If you keep the lines of communication open, they will tell you what they need.
  • Don’t be afraid to still be their parents. Discipline is one way to show your child that you still care what happens to them. No matter how much you want to treat them “kindly” they must remember that rules are rules and some things in their lives will not change. (Namely your interest in them making the right decisions).
  • Allow them to do things with other people but realize that they also need to spend time with you. While it is necessary to allow them to interact naturally with their friends, neighbors, etc., nothing can replace your love and time. Initially, they aren’t expecting for you to jump through hoops or dance a jig… just to be there.
  • As time passes, allow yourself to enjoy the simple things in life with them without showing obvious signs of guilt. (ie: listening to music, watching TV, eating in a restaurant, going to school events, etc.)
  • Even though it will be extremely difficult, still observe religious holidays, birthdays, etc. with them. The observances can be much more subdued or smaller, but please make the effort for them. They will understand you being sad, but they won’t understand you not wanting to share these wonderful times with them at all.
  • Remember that their whole lives are ahead of them. The memories you make with them now will help to sustain them when you are gone. Make the effort for them; it’s what your Heavenly child would want for you to do.
  • Don’t ever compare them with your Heavenly child. Explain that each child is created differently. Each of them has gifts and challenges and they are the perfect version of themselves.
  • Give them mementos and pictures of their sibling. If you entrust them with these precious items, they will feel closer to their sibling and special to you.

Grieving Hearts