Sibling Grief: Would You Be This Sad If It Was Me?
By Emily Graham
My daughter’s words rang out unexpectedly, “Would you be this sad if it was me?” It was about a month after her big brother’s death. She was still trying to process her grief. We all were. But her words stung. We didn’t yet understand sibling grief.
It was a valid question. One I never expected her to ask. Yet, I’ve found most things after child loss come with a shock. Why should her questions be any different?
A knife to the chest. At least, that’s how it felt. We hadn’t stopped to really think about her perspective. Sure, she lost her brother, her best friend. Life looked different for her, too. Yet, we didn’t understand sibling grief and loss. Not really.
How scary it must be to have someone just disappear from your life. To look around and see that your parents, your security system, are struggling. Everything seems to be about the one that is now gone.
What about me? Why am I not enough?
IT WAS OUR WAKE UP CALL
Constantly hearing people talk about him made her feel like less. Knowing your 4-year-old is questioning her own self-worth is heartbreaking. That’s the effect our grief had on her. Seeing us so sad, she just wanted to fix it but she couldn’t.
While our grief continued to consume us, we needed to find a balance for her. Place less focus on him and give her more “normal.” Whatever that now meant.
When your eyes are opened to the sibling grief your other children experience, you break a little more inside. Not only is it seeing your other children in pain, but also the realization that you are different. They have also lost their mother or father. Maybe not physically, but there is a change and they notice.
WELCOME TO THE NEW NORMAL
Not only are we unsure how to navigate our own loss, but we are walking through a minefield parenting our other children through theirs. I often feel unfit and overwhelmed. How do I determine the difference between what is normal and what is grief related? How do I anticipate my daughter’s needs when I can’t even figure out my own?
THE COMPLEXITY OF SIBLING GRIEF
I never want my daughter to question if she is enough. She is! And someday, when she becomes a mother, she will have a glimpse into understanding that while she is enough, I still yearn to have them both.
By Emily Graham Emily is a wife and mother to 3 children – 2 girls here 1 son in heaven. Late Christmas Eve (2015) life was sent on a new, unexpected trajectory. Her oldest child, Cameron (forever 7), unexpectedly got sick. Within 24-hours they were making the hardest decision of their lives to withdraw life support. As he died in her arms, she promised to find a way to live on in his honor.
She began sharing her grief journey on her blog (JustPlayingHouse.com), and the response from other bereaved parents was overwhelming. Feedback resonated that the support out there seemed to focus on infant/baby loss and miscarriage versus older children. She felt this was an opportunity and calling to help fill in that gap. Her passion is supporting other bereaved parents walking this path and educating others in an attempt to shatter the stigma surrounding grief and life after child loss. Writing has been the foundation of Emily’s healing, and she is currently working on her first book.
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