“I have no one to talk to. My friends just want a curiosity story. I don’t know who I can trust to hold the significance of my loss. It’s so hard to see my parents in pain. I feel like I lost my childhood the moment my sibling died. I lost the innocent belief that life is safe. Group is not hard. It’s harder to hold it in.”
An eighteen-year-old came in for counseling because of the loss of his younger brother, who died suddenly. His brother was also his best friend.
This age group is very difficult to get into grief counseling. There is a stigma attached to therapy, and they seem to feel that they will “be better” in a few months. My client was hoping I could provide a magic cure for his pain, but he soon realized this wasn’t going to be the case.
At first, he pretended that his brother was just on a trip and would return. When the permanence set in, the pain was so profound he felt like dropping out of college. He had some guilt that if only he had woken earlier, he could have checked on his brother and therefore his death could have been prevented. I told him these thoughts are common—the if-onlys and what-ifs. Everyone wants to know the point in time that they could have intervened for a different outcome, but only Superman could spin the world backwards to change history.
Another issue that often comes up around sibling loss is that they feel the need to take care of their parents’ grief, but feel helpless about being able to do so. This is emphasized when people ask how their parents are doing, instead of asking how they are doing. The sibling may feel forgotten as the emphasis is clearly on the parents who have lost their child.
I remind siblings that every person in the family has their own personal grief journey to go through. Each must walk it in their own way. Of course, there is a need to be sensitive to each other, but understand that you are feeling helpless for a reason. Their journey is not your journey. Remember that grieving is okay. It is not something to be taken away or minimized. It is the price we pay for love.