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The Sibling Connection
Frequently Asked Questions



Q: How long does the grief last?

A: The beginning part of grief that is so much like an actual, physical illness usually lasts no more than 6-8 weeks. After that, the length of time depends on a number of factors, such as the amount of life space shared with the deceased, the degree of dependency on the deceased, and the number of secondary losses. Secondary losses come about because of the death, which was the primary loss. If, for example, your adult brother dies, and his wife has to move away to get a job or to be closer to her parents, the secondary loss is your nieces and nephews, and your sister-in-law.

Q: Isn't there some way to kill the pain? I never thought anything could hurt this much.

A: Nature has created two ways of relieving the pain of grief. The first is crying, especially if you are trusting enough to cry with another person there who can be accepting of your feelings. The second is talking about your loss and your feelings with a trusted friend or family member, therapist, or minister. When you open your heart to another, their feelings of caring can flow in to your hurt. This is nature's medicine. However, if the pain of grief goes on for many months, so that you cannot function, talk to your physician, because the loss may have triggered a clinical depression. Clinical depression can be treated with medication and therapy.

Q: I am having trouble concentrating at work, even though it has been awhile since my sibling died. What can I do?

A: Lack of concentration may be a symptom of a clinical depression. Talk to your doctor about this. Also, if you have never really had a chance to talk through your feelings with someone, get a counselor or therapist.

Q: My sibling died when I was a child, and now I'm in mid-life, and it seems to be bothering me more now than it did back then. What should I do?

A: When you were a child, you were not able to realize exactly what it was you lost. You may not have had the support necessary to complete the grieving process, or aspects of the death may have been traumatic. This is one of the most common patterns of grieving following early sibling loss. It is crucial that you seek help to work through your feelings.

Q: Why are siblings so often left out of the grieving process, even when their parents and other relatives get a lot of support?

A: This is something I hear all the time. I can't explain it, although I know it happens. Perhaps there has been so much talk about sibling rivalry, people forget about sibling closeness. It might simply be too threatening for others to be supportive of you, because it triggers that person's own vulnerability.

Q: Are there any support groups for bereaved siblings?

A: Some of the Bereaved Parents and Compassionate Friends organizations welcome siblings to their meetings. I recommend calling them to find out. Also, most hospitals have a grief support group, often run by the hospital chaplain. Call your local hospital for information about this. If they don't know, ask to speak to the chaplain. For online support, check out the SupportLinks page.


For further information, email the Sibling Connection.



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