Help & SUPPORT
HOW CAN WE HELP OUR OTHER CHILDREN AFTER THEIR BROTHER OR SISTER HAS DIED.
If a parent suffers the loss of a child, society seems to of excepted that the pain is so devastating and a traumatic experience, but what about the siblings, do their not get the same respect.
In a normal world, as our children begin to grow, they show an unbridled care and kindness for each other, or they would tease and scrobble with each other about so many meaningless things, but they are developing a bond between brothers and sisters that is unbreakable, and to give them credit, this starts from the moment they find out that they are going to share a parents love with another. When a siblings pass away, the remaining children would feel insecure and confused.
With the parent being preoccupied with their own feelings after their child has passed away, it is understandable, that even for a short term, the other children’s emotions would be placed on the back burner, but the children would witness first hand the suffering and turmoil of your loss. Sometimes it is a friend or family member who would take the lead and help them through the first steps. Don’t feel it’s wrong to ask for help.
Like their parents, bereaved children may experience a wide range of emotions, but at their stage of development would find it hard or impossible to be able to show their feelings in a way adults could understand, they may play happily with their toys or would want to hang out with friends, this could wrongly be assumed that they’re not aware or it has not affected them. They always are, in their own way.
This is a very painful and vulnerable time for our living children, and how we react to the death will influence their feelings. If we openly grieve, this shows them, it is ok, that there is no shame in how we all are feeling. Be honest and talk to the children openly and age-appropriately, try not to say, “Our baby left us,” or “they went to sleep,” as the younger children may be confused and not want to go to bed or have a fear when someone they love goes on holiday.
We should also remember that we all grieve in different ways, some will talk openly and freely while others will clam up. Try not to force them to talk about how their feelings, at the same time don’t stop your child talking about their brother or sister, it may be painful to hear them go on about something and nothing, but the child may feel it is important to them to say it. Try to encourage an openness, where they can tell you about their feelings and other things that is on they mind, after all their maybe worried that someone they love and care about will leave them next.
You may start questioning yourself, are your doing the right thing? Your children’s moods may be out of character, or even one child could be happy while another child maybe full of tears and sadness. Losing a brother or sister is a very deep and powerful loss. Some children feel a great sense of isolation, and may be unwilling to believe their sibling has died, they may be full of fear or guilt. You may feel you have tried to talk to them but when you do, they seem to be worse and may lash out. This is more to do with how they are feeling inside, change can be so hard while permanent change is impossible.
With the death of their brother or sister, they may start to question their own mortality, they may have questions about death and dying, just try and be honest with them, it is common for a bereaved child to become anxious about death and other family members leaving them. In their mind they may find it hard to show them the same amount of love as they think their loves one will leave them and they will become even more alone.
The remaining siblings may feel guilty, somehow the cause of their death. They may have wished for them not to have been around to share in their parents love, they may feel a sense of remorse that they could have done more. They need to be reassured that the death was not their fault and be told how their brother or sister died and how it was no-ones fault, it just happened.
Another thing that can be very confusing, is working out the new family dynamic especially for a younger members, are we still a brother or sister to a child in heaven? How many family members are they now? Did they leave us because they didn’t love us any more? These are painful questions but at the same time understandable. The siblings are also trying to make and redesign who they are and how to cope with their new norm. Try and talk all together about these and many other things.
Don’t be scared about asking for professional help, sometimes we are too close and the child feels he can’t open up and say things to us, sometime they just need a friend to be there. It isn’t a failing, and its not that we can’t cope, it is just what is needed to be done. Remember, we would take our children to dance or training but then allow a more capable teacher to help them with their needs, so why not now...
I can’t say that we have a magic pill or a solution, and we all will get things wrong at times. I found that it has helped talking about our baby George in the present tense, he is a big part of our life and he also a part of his brothers and sisters. At times, I am floored when one of George’s siblings will ask me questions about heaven or say something out of the blue about him. I may be shock and a little dumbfounded, but I will answer when possible, Its a part of their growing up and we have also tried to be truthful.