Sibling Resource Center
A child’s reaction to their sibling’s death can vary depending on age, developmental state, socialization, and the circumstances of death, including how they found out. The Dougy Center: The National Center for Grieving Children & Families has terrific information on the developmental stages as it relates to the concept of death, grief response, and signs of distress. You can view these details here.
Here are some tips adapted from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) to help:
Acknowledge that many siblings feel guilty, but correct inaccurate thoughts and information.
Reassure the child that all children are different and unique and that he or she is just as important and loved as the child who died. You should also pay attention to friends or family members’ comments comparing a surviving sibling to the child who died. You should comfort your child and help others understand that this can be hurtful.
Focus on comforting connections with the sibling who died, perhaps by talking with surviving children about happy memories or special life lessons they shared. At the same time, help surviving children to see and appreciate their own unique strengths and abilities and their special place within the family.
Although difficult, keeping open communication and providing your child with age-appropriate information about their deceased sibling so that they can feel comfortable
coming to you with their questions, concerns, and feelings will help you to understand your surviving children’s feelings, fears, and help them understand their sibling’s death.
Consider the impact of where and how many of your deceased child’s things are kept visible in the home by trying to include siblings in some of the decision making in age-appropriate ways. Physical reminders can be comforting for surviving children and let them know that the person who died was a valued member of the family. If you find these reminders too upsetting, look for ways that the surviving children can keep some reminders.
Encourage children to return to their regular, life-affirming activities. Playing and socializing with friends can increase children’s sense of accomplishment and give them vital social support.
If children show recurring feelings of responsibility and guilt, reassure them that the death was not their fault. Explain that things often look different when we look back and think about “what might have been,” but that there was nothing they could have done at the time. Let children know that you do not blame them for their sibling’s death.
Acknowledge surviving children’s fears and talk about them without dismissing them. Reassure children about their safety, for example, by reviewing safety plans and establishing check-in times.
Online Resources For Siblings
The Dougy Center provides support in a safe place where children, teens, young adults, and their families grieving a death can share their experiences.
Comfort Zone Camp is a nonprofit 501(c)3 bereavement organization that transforms the lives of children who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, or primary caregiver.
Since December 1995 Seasons Centre has been providing peer to peer support groups for our community’s children/teens and their families grieving the death, or life-threatening illness of an immediate family member.
The Coalition’s purpose is to create and share a set of industry-endorsed resources that will empower school communities across America in the ongoing support of their grieving students.
The National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement (NCSCB) at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is dedicated to supporting students through crisis and loss.
The National Alliance for Grieving Children (NAGC) is a nonprofit organization that raises awareness about the needs of children and teens who are grieving a death and provides education and resources for anyone who supports them.