S5E5: Why is the Death of a Sibling Different than Other Relationship Deaths?

The death of your sibling may receive little social acknowledgement, but the can affect you in many ways. Learn why it can have a profound and unique impact.

This podcast is dedicated to Russell, the baby brother of Robert.

In this Episode:

  • 00:00 – Intro and Dedication
  • 04:33 – Recipe of the Week: Two Brothers’ Chocolate Gobs
  • 07:20 – Our Construct of the Afterlife and How it Consoles Us
  • 13:23 – Why is the Death of a Sibling so Different?
  • 32:29 – “12 Things I Learned from Losing My Brother”
  • 39:41 – Outro

What is Different About the Death of a Sibling?

We’ve been through a lot together. We may love them or hate them, but no matter what, brothers and sisters have influenced our journey in life and we have a shared history that no one else has, especially after parents are gone. Their death can cause major changes of family dynamics that ripple for years to come. All this can go relatively unseen, as it is our societal norm to console the parents, but maybe forget about the siblings.

Sibling loss is painful at any age. A senior who has lost a sibling is likely revisiting feelings of other losses including parents, spouses and friends, and likely has fewer family members to offer comfort and support.

What is Survivor Guilt?

The death can trigger all kinds of emotions, such as “Why did they die, and I’m still living?” Siblings are also naturally protective of each other, so there may be guilt of not being able to protect the one who died. Finally, there may be guilt over the relationship, such as a poor relationship, distance that grew over time, or not being supportive enough.

Two sisters hugging. One has a headscarf from cancer treatment. We talk about the grief that comes with the death of a sibling in this episode.
Survivor guilt can be triggered by many kinds of circumstances, such as a loss in childhood, a sudden accident, or simply drifting apart over time.

How Do I Heal from Loss of a Sibling?

We talk about the importance of recognizing and validating your feelings. Please visit the content we have on grief, therapy, and good self practices such as mindfulness.

How Do I Support Someone Who Lost a Sibling?

Sometimes, the death of a sibling falls into the category of “disenfranchised grief,” where society may not fully acknowledge or understand the impact of the death. It is important to connect with professional support or others who have experienced similar losses.

If you know someone who has had a sibling die, allow them the room to discuss memories if the subject comes up. It’s important for them to recall their sister or brother and keep them in their hearts… because they existed. They lived. And they’ll always be a part of a surviving sibling’s life.

Related Content:



Exploring Loss and the Afterlife

Marianne read a segment from the novel While I Was Gone by Sue Miller. In the book it is part of a sermon given at a worship service on All Saint’s Day. It explores how we construct our ideas of an afterlife and how this language is used to console ourselves and others when someone dies.

A book cover titled While I Was Gone by Sue Miller

12 Things I Learned from Losing my Brother

Charlie read a blog post by Allyson Koerner, who shares “At 13 years-old, my 16-year-old brother died in a car accident. Even though it’s now been 16 years since I lost him, I remember the day like it was yesterday.”

We learn several pointers from Allyson who hopes to aid fellow siblings who are dealing with the death of a brother or a sister. Sometimes, it’s best to listen to someone who understands what you’re going through. Be sure to also visit her page if you are a fan of memes, she has one for each lesson!

Recipe of the Week:

This week we bring you two brother’s chocolate gobs from Paula Deen. Enjoy!

Get this recipe from Paula Deen.

We are also selected as one of the Top 50 Grief Blogs on the Web!

From Everyone Dies:

Everyone Dies: and yes, it is normal!

Everyone Dies (and yes, it is normal) is a story about a young boy named Jax who finds something special on the beach where he and his grandpa Pops are enjoying a wonderful day. Pops helps Jax understand that death is a normal part of life. This book provides an age appropriate, non-scary, comfortable way to introduce the important topic of mortality to a preschool child. Its simple explanation will last a lifetime. Autographed copies for sale at: www.everyonediesthebook.com. Also available at Amazon

Mourning Jewelry
mourning jewelry earings

We offer a way to memorialize your loved one or treasured pet with a piece of handmade jewelry.  When people comment on it and the wearer can say for example “I received this when my mother died” which opens the conversation about this loss. All our jewelry is made with semi-precious stones and beads, vintage beads, and pearls. You can choose between earrings or bracelets and the color family. Learn More

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