It is ok to be sad


I feel you rolling your eyes, as I hit post. Another grief post you think! Your pain is no longer because it wasn’t your child you lost, it was mine, so you did feel sad for a bit after, you don’t understand how or why I am still grieving or posting sad stuff about grief. I get it its not your loss, you don’t feel it every day like I do and you don’t want to remember it  as much as I do. You might think I am bitter or want sympathy, I don’t. Just know that my heart hurts when I glance at the spot on the floor where she stopped breathing, that I have trouble thinking of moving because this is where she lived for 2 short weeks. Every time I hear a story of tragedy or a life lost I cry for her. Am I stuck? no I am human. I am a mother that gave birth to a beautiful baby that struggled to live, to breathe, that spent 5 weeks in the NICU, not sleeping, not feeling and slowly breaking. That was almost four years ago I know, you think I must have moved past this pain, I have another little girl right. She is my savior, yes. but also my daily reminder of my first little girl that is not here. Would they be best friends? or Would they fight a lot?  I wonder. And yes that too makes me sad. Immediate grief after a tragedy is overwhelming, its consuming and then time takes it away, little by little the intense memories fade and it is easier to ‘pretend’ life is what it is.

Today is October 15th- International Awareness of Stillbirth, miscarriage and infant loss

A day that makes me sad but grateful to have met and to be a part of a community of women, amazing women, that too have suffered a loss, something that is not openly spoken about but should be, something that people are uncomfortable to bring up, leaving the person(s) that suffered the loss alone. Why are we told not to share a pregnancy until 3 months? in case you lose the baby right, we don’t need to upset people like that! but then we suffer alone with our loss. Not right. After I lost my daughter, after she was born at full term, after she was given a birth certificate because she lived past 21 days (the time the government thinks your baby needs to live to be considered a human!) even though we all know as soon as we see that pink or blue line we have a child in our life, whether they live past 21 days or not, to be deemed a person! Different issue, I move on. The stigma that surrounds uncomfortable feelings needs to stop. People need compassion not shame. I don’t know how to change the world into thinking its ok to be sad, we do not need to ‘pretend’ to be happy all the time. As Buddha says ‘Life is suffering’ I believe we have pockets of happy moments or happy feelings but if you truly look at the world and live true, you see that it is about surviving, surviving tragedy around us, surviving, genocide, rape, famine , disease, homelessness, joblessness, then death. Acknowledging life’s struggles does not make us ‘negative’ it makes us real and if you let yourself feel the sad you will better be able to appreciate the happy.

After I lost my daughter, so many women came up to me and told me about their losses, a women lost her son when he was 21, another suffered multiple miscarriages’ but never told anyone, so many stories, so many women that suffered alone because society made them feel like they had to hide their shame because it wasn’t ‘happy news’ I call bollocks! I will continue to share my grief and encourage others to share because we are here for such a short time, all we have is each other. To help, to love, to pick each other up and hug.


Thanks for reading.





 Today I want to take a moment to have special moments, with myself, my kids – individually and with my husband. It feels like with the pressure of societies view that ‘we are all perfect and deserve it all attitude’  life in todays world gets  easily carried away. It becomes a spinning tilt a whirl that you cannot stop, you keep getting dizzy as you pull on the spinner harder to go even faster.

When my kids were babies I relished in the daily moments of laying on the bed making them giggle, we had no soccer to race to, piano to practice, homework to do, gourmet dinners to cook, burn and force kids to eat because at least they have food on the table! I miss the long, slow walks holding their hand stopping to stare at every fallen leaf or magical snail that crawled along.

Life moves fast and as our kids get older it is in a nonstop fast forward motion that makes me sick. I know I will wake up one day in a quiet (clean) house. It terrifies me every night as I will myself to sleep because the kids will be up in 7, 6, 5! Hours. Have I done enough? Have I taught them right from wrong? Have I given them the tools to succeed, to help others, to never give up?

It is so hard to live in the moment when there is so much to be done. But today I will try just a little harder to let the little things go, to make the important things around me smile and to know that one day it will end.

My 3rd child, my 1rst daughter died 43 months ago today  (Feb.18.2012) her death caused us to stop and think, why? why her , why us, why is the world so disturbing in its greed and lust, why cant we stop time or why would we want to…..

You are born and at some point hopefully much later you die. All you have is this moment, to love, to laugh, to live (probably why this picture is so popular as we need to be reminded daily)

Enjoy your moments,  Live, Laugh, Love.


Thanks for reading, Sheri.






Top 8 Grief and loss books.



In the dark hours after someone dies we often lay in the literal dark not able to shut off our minds only wanting to sleep so the pain is not so physical. We search endlessly for books to help us understand what we are feeling, to know we are not alone, to help up cope. I have read many, many books on grief in the 3 short years since my daughters death, the ones that helped me cope were actually the fictional stories of parents suffering tragedy, in a very morbid way I was comforted. But I also read many books written specifically to help the bereaved and as I 3 years ago would have loved to have stumbled upon a list of grief books I didn’t, so I will share the top 8 that helped me to this day, when my daughter would have been 3.5.

#1 –   “no death, no fear” ,   by Thich Nhat Hanh

#2 – “A Grief Observed”,   by C.S. Lewis

#3 – “Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief”, by Martha Whitmore Hickman

#4 – “The Bereaved Parent”, by Harriett S. Schiff

#5 – No Time To Say Goodbye: Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One”, by Carla Fine.

#6 – “The Trauma of Everyday Life”,   by Mark Epstein

#7 – “Wave”,  by Sonali Deraniyagala

#8 – “Her”,  by Christa Parravani


Thanks for reading, Namaste. Sheri

11 ways to help someone who is grieving. By Megan Devine


#1 Grief belongs to the griever.
You have a supporting role, not the central role, in your friend’s grief. This may seem like a strange thing to say. So many of the suggestions, advice and “help” given to the griever tells them they should be doing this differently, or feeling differently than they do. Grief is a very personal experience, and belongs entirely to the person experiencing it. You may believe you would do things differently if it had happened to you. We hope you do not get the chance to find out. This grief belongs to your friend: follow his or her lead.

#2 Stay present and state the truth.
It’s tempting to make statements about the past or the future when your friend’s present life holds so much pain. You cannot know what the future will be, for yourself or your friend — it may or may not be better “later.” That your friend’s life was good in the past is not a fair trade for the pain of now. Stay present with your friend, even when the present is full of pain.

It’s also tempting to make generalized statements about the situation in an attempt to soothe your friend. You cannot know that your friend’s loved one “finished their work here,” or that they are in a “better place.” These future-based, omniscient, generalized platitudes aren’t helpful. Stick with the truth: this hurts. I love you. I’m here.

#3 Do not try to fix the unfixable.
Your friend’s loss cannot be fixed or repaired or solved. The pain itself cannot be made better. Please see #2. Do not say anything that tries to fix the unfixable, and you will do just fine. It is an unfathomable relief to have a friend who does not try to take the pain away.

#4 Be willing to witness searing, unbearable pain.
To do #4 while also practicing #3 is very, very hard.

#5 This is not about you.
Being with someone in pain is not easy. You will have things come up — stresses, questions, anger, fear, guilt. Your feelings will likely be hurt. You may feel ignored and unappreciated. Your friend cannot show up for their part of the relationship very well. Please don’t take it personally, and please don’t take it out on them. Please find your own people to lean on at this time — it’s important that you be supported while you support your friend. When in doubt, refer to #1.

#6 Anticipate, don’t ask.
Do not say “Call me if you need anything,” because your friend will not call. Not because they do not need, but because identifying a need, figuring out who might fill that need, and then making a phone call to ask is light years beyond their energy levels, capacity or interest. Instead, make concrete offers: “I will be there at 4 p.m. on Thursday to bring your recycling to the curb,” or “I will stop by each morning on my way to work and give the dog a quick walk.” Be reliable.

#7 Do the recurring things.
The actual, heavy, real work of grieving is not something you can do (see #1), but you can lessen the burden of “normal” life requirements for your friend. Are there recurring tasks or chores that you might do? Things like walking the dog, refilling prescriptions, shoveling snow and bringing in the mail are all good choices. Support your friend in small, ordinary ways — these things are tangible evidence of love.

Please try not to do anything that is irreversible — like doing laundry or cleaning up the house — unless you check with your friend first. That empty soda bottle beside the couch may look like trash, but may have been left there by their husband just the other day. The dirty laundry may be the last thing that smells like her. Do you see where I’m going here? Tiny little normal things become precious. Ask first.

#8 Tackle projects together.
Depending on the circumstance, there may be difficult tasks that need tending — things like casket shopping, mortuary visits, the packing and sorting of rooms or houses. Offer your assistance and follow through with your offers. Follow your friend’s lead in these tasks. Your presence alongside them is powerful and important; words are often unnecessary. Remember #4: bear witness and be there.

#9 Run interference.
To the new griever, the influx of people who want to show their support can be seriously overwhelming. What is an intensely personal and private time can begin to feel like living in a fish bowl. There might be ways you can shield and shelter your friend by setting yourself up as the designated point person — the one who relays information to the outside world, or organizes well-wishers. Gatekeepers are really helpful.

#10 Educate and advocate.
You may find that other friends, family members and casual acquaintances ask for information about your friend. You can, in this capacity, be a great educator, albeit subtly. You can normalize grief with responses like,”She has better moments and worse moments and will for quite some time. An intense loss changes every detail of your life.” If someone asks you about your friend a little further down the road, you might say things like, “Grief never really stops. It is something you carry with you in different ways.”

#11 Love.
Above all, show your love. Show up. Say something. Do something. Be willing to stand beside the gaping hole that has opened in your friend’s life, without flinching or turning away. Be willing to not have any answers. Listen. Be there. Be present. Be a friend. Be love. Love is the thing that lasts.

Megan Devine is the author of Everything is Not Okay: an audio program for grief. She is a licensed clinical counselor, writer and grief advocate. You can find her at Join her on facebook at

3 years.


My daughter Lily was born still.

That’s what would have been my statement had we waited any longer. She was born blue and was resuscitated; because of her beginning without oxygen she suffered brain stem damage, she was frozen for 3 days to help heal her brain damage, the first time I held my baby girl she was 4 days old. But she was alive so I was grateful.

Weeks passed with so many tests, all with a negative conclusion and after having a feeding tube surgically placed into her gastro intestine we were able to take her home. What gets me is that even though they did 3 MRI’s and multiple other scans, they missed what would eventually kill her. That was her trachea. They were so close too, they found the holes in her heart, they found the valve that pumped the wrong way, all of these would need surgeries to be fixed but she needed to be bigger and stronger to endure them, had they looked an inch higher they would have seen her abnormal trachea.

The night Lily stopped breathing and I performed CPR on her plays out as a nightmare in my memory, for the longest time I wanted to move because every time I looked at that spot on the  floor where she lay, my heart stopped, but then we replaced the carpets with hardwood and I was sad that that was now gone too, so I knew I couldn’t leave the one place she had been. When they found out about Lilys trachea, the doctor phoned and told me she would need a tracheotomy to live- that’s a hole in her throat to breathe, he said she would never have a good life, would never speak, would never taste anything and would have a shortened lifespan because of it. That surgery was on top of the other 4 heart surgeries she needed. This one would now be 1rst though. He said I will do it if you tell me to but even on a healthy baby the chance of survival is slim. What the fuck do you say to that!? We had company downstairs that day, I didn’t go back down.

We went back to the hospital 1rst thing the next day probably our 100th drive then. I suffered from ptsd every time I got into the car after she died. 4 days later we signed a do not resuscitate order, they took out her breathing tube and we held her until she died 30 minutes later at 4:55 pm on February 18 2012. I am forever haunted by this. What if we did the surgeries? Most likely she wouldn’t have died in our arms but on a table. What if we accepted the transfer to Canuck Place? We probably would have had a nicer end of her life together as a family. What if she was born still? None of these traumatizing experiences would have happened, we would have still grieved but differently I imagine. The hardest, what if she continued to breathe, what if she was that 5% that survived.

So as life goes on, as we try to understand the why’s of it all, we want to grow, we hope to learn, we try to accept, we continue to live. We chose to remember.


Do your thoughts wander…. from one to the next, in odd fashion? Have you ever obsessed over the same thought over and over? Lost sleep over ‘too much thinking’ Cant turn your brain off. I think it is a trait that is innately human. We learn, we obsess, we overthink… When series of events cause us to overthink or overlap our thoughts, we get anxious or afraid at outcomes we cannot control, one wonders why we are so wired to worry about what we cannot control. perhaps sayings like: always stay positive or never give up, you are what you make of your self  and maybe even you are what you eat. Cause us to grow up thinking we can control our outcomes or what happens to us. But often things happen that we do not want to and things do not happen that we do want to. That is life.  We believe we can control situations as long as we follow steps a, b and c, unfortunately there are always unaccounted for endings, like the one we don’t want. In a way things happen to us that will teach us, where we can learn and grow but also serve as a reminder we are not in control and need to accept that and ultimately let go.  If we can look at life as a journey, with probably more downs than ups, a journey where our overthinking will overlap our thoughts and intentions and that is ok. We maybe can enjoy the journey better in a way that we do not or have the need to be right or positive or as it should be. I am not a fan of the saying everything happens for a reason but I do believe that we are meant to learn what we can from things that happen that we did not want to. The greatest thing to learn from is death, loss and grief. How we learn to cope. To grow. To accept. These things take on so many forms for so many people. Some depression. Some become adventurists or less shy or more introvert as they ponder their own mortality, as inevitably it pops up when we lose someone. we tend to think about others around us dying or even ourselves. It is a scary train of thought that precedes the death of a loved one. It takes years to get over a loss although you never fully recover. I believe it takes us consciously accepting the fact that we do not or can not control the outcome of most things and therefore allow ourselves to be free from the guilt that also follows death. The what if? that haunts your thoughts’ There is no easy solution to grieving but to let it happen. Get lots of sleep, lots of water, long walks. fresh air, talk to friends, write in a journal, but most importantly stop obsessing that you could have done something differently, that its your fault. Because we are not gods, we do not control what happens as much as we try to believe or are raised to think we can/do.

Thanks for reading,



he matters

the heart sees clearly.

thumb_Jozi Grant 1241_1024

Prime Minister Trudeau,

Just over 10 years ago, before you decided to represent the people of this country, you stood in front of our class at McGill talking about how, from a global perspective, children are the voices of our future. After, in the small classroom in the Education building, we continued the discussion. As an educator, you inspired me. As a human, you inspired me.

I write to you as a mother, Canadian and educator. An injustice has been served towards my son. I want to teach him the importance of having your voice heard and show him the value of being a citizen of this great country. As his parent, it is my responsibility to do this.

We welcomed our first child into the world on October 30th, 2014. He arrived the day after his due date, after a healthy ‘textbook’ pregnancy. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen complications during…

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I see you’re sad

I see you’re sad. You are trying to hide it but I can see it. Others won’t, you are functioning as you should, but I see the slight differences. You used to laugh so freely now it’s forced; you dressed always over the occasion and easily looked the best, now you wear my favorite attire in time of raw grief, comfy clothes that are always ready to nap with you. I sense the change in you; you are quieter staying inside yourself protecting your heart. I see it because I know, I have been there. Your mind is reeling from the loss that it feels fuzzy sometimes confused or hard to make pointless conversation, not sure what to say so it stays silent. You become an observer. Watching life move on when you can’t. You don’t find things funny or silly it is too hard when you experience the certainty of life -that is death. Your appearance seems unnecessary, we hide behind hats; literally to cover our face; hide our sad. We assume people do not notice because we are out, we are functioning, we attempt to smile when need be. They don’t know we sleep more, eat less or less healthy because who cares right. But I see you’re sad. I feel your grief when I look in your eyes. I know your pain when you force a smile or conversation or simply walk away because you can’t take it. I know, I see it and I am sorry.

Thanks for reading,




Written for my close friend because I see her pain but oddly enough do not know what to say or do knowing she needs to walk her own path through her grief.


Faucets of the heart



As I lay awake with the demons of the night my mind wanders in and out of morbid thoughts. Ones I can shake some I cannot.

We are all born with a fairly similarly functioning heart, thought not my daughter Lily who died needing many heart surgeries from congenital heart disease. Anyways, as I was thinking while wishing I was sleeping; we are all born with a tiny faucet on our heart that helps us to feel, to empathize, to show and have compassion; to hurt.

As we grow, as we get disappointed, let down, break,our faucets leak more, causing us to feel more, cry more. Maybe with trauma grows a new faucet, maybe with death of those close to our hearts grows multiple. At times in grief, especially the raw stage of grief we feel actual pain, in our chest because of our sadness or hurt or loss; crying hurts- literally, our faucets are overflowing.

Perhaps over time they slow, maybe even stop leaking in moments of bliss or happiness, but they are always there. Those of us that have more faucets feel more in times of tragedy because we have been drained before. we cry more easily because our taps turn on faster. We hurt when others hurt. But I think that is okay. If we do not feel we do not live.

Thanks for reading,




Birds of Sorrow

birds of sorrow

You cannot prevent birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.

  • Chinese proverb


This quote, I found in the book ‘Finding your way’ grieving the death of your child, a book given to me by Canuck Place.  This book became my bible in helping me accept my grief and understand what was happening. The book ‘No death No Fear’ By Thich Nhat Hanh taught me that we cannot take blame for what we do not control. We all live we all die, some lives are long some are short all are meaningful.




Love, Dad

Fathers day….

A day to honor your dad; but what if you never met him or he`s died…. what if you never loved him because he abused you… what if, as in my case he has dementia and doesn’t remember much of the last decade…what if they live too far to see often… what if a father has had a child that died or struggled to become a father and hasnt… there are many men, that for them Fathers day is not a celebration, just like for many women Mothers day is not all roses.


Laura writes, “On my 8th fatherless Father’s Day, my dad found a way to send me a handwritten message from the grave”.

Read the full story By  here;

Love, Dad

From Dads, We see you by Kelly Gerken

What happens when a father can’t fix what’s broken? When he can’t protect his family from an agonizing goodbye as the  life of his child quietly slips away, leaving that man standing beside a tiny grave, holding his weeping wife up with his strong hands?What happens when his baby dies? What happens then?His dreams are gone in that moment. Forever changed. His wife, his love will never be the same.

Dads, We See You

I share the other side, but also wish a Happy Fathers day to my beautiful husband, my father and nonno. Without you I would not have learned to work hard, keep trying and stand tall.





Reality of Life and Death

After talking with a  few friends who are having a hard time with recent deaths of those very close to them, they’re having a hard time having never experienced  loss before or perhaps dealing with death; the older we become it seems to get harder because of the realization of our own mortality. They are in there mid thirties to mid forties, so I was surprised; I just kept thinking how lucky they were to have been spared for so long. But of course knew how insensitive that was to think.

I started to think of my own life and those that have died around me. The first death I experienced was the death of my friend/neighbors mom when we were 7 or 8. I knew it was sad, I knew she was “gone” but did not really understand what happened or the loss to the family. I remember her brother who was 10 or 11 yelling at me and my brothers for going to their moms funeral saying that we just wanted to miss school. I didn’t understand why he got mad at us not until I was older. The next was not for almost 10 years later when my paternal grandfather died, I remember going to the hospital to say goodbye, I am glad my dad brought me. I remember how shallow and scary his breathing sounded; I remember crying but also trying to hide it. The worst was watching how that death affected my dad, he began drinking more after that, and maybe that’s why within a few months my mom left him.

The next death that impacted me was that of a friend who was beaten to death. The hardest part about that was that it was done by other mutual friends. Not being able to understand why. His funeral was hard because some of our friends ,who were friends with both were not allowed to go; I was friends with both but not close to either at that time. It was hard because it wasn’t right, no one deserves to be murdered and no one expects others to take one’s life so carelessly. It really opened my eyes to the brutality of life. After this I was in my early 20’s and quite a few friends and acquaintances in the years that followed had died or been killed or overdosed. It almost started to be ‘normal’. No, just easier to accept I guess. Then 2 friends from high school died, we were not close anymore it had been almost 10 years since high school but it was hard to understand and handle none the less. One was killed by a drunk driver leaving behind 3 kids, and just having had my 1st child being pregnant with my 2nd it literally shattered my heart to think of their loss as well as her for not being able to see her kids grow up. The other friend took his own life, battling a terrible depression that none were even aware of. The amount of death at my minds door at the ripe age of 30 was astounding. But nothing prepared me for the next year, the year I turned 31. I gave birth to and then lost my 3rd child when she was 2 months old, 2 months later my maternal grandmother passed and 2 weeks previous my paternal grandmother passed. All the deaths were overwhelming. I felt surrounded, I was in shock for most of that 1st year, as I sit and type I realize the fog lifted shortly after a year but I think I hurt more because I started to feel more, the shock being gone there was more room to think as well as feel. I felt not only grief and loss but guilt and longing were added. Then I thought about all those lost before and felt just so overwhelmingly sad and mad at the world. How do we live “happily” when so many are not given that chance? How can we accept death when it is so unexpected most of the time? How do we live with the intention of putting love first when some of us are lucky enough to not experience hard losses and therefore live to maturity and grow wealth or some that disregard life and kill the earth or our environment due to lack of empathy. I believe death teaches us empathy, to care more for what is important. I hate death and the things it has taken from me but it has given me appreciation for things like a 100 year old tree, spring flowers, a hug, a kiss, a smile. Things money cannot buy.

At times when I see others pain in coping with death and loss I wish I could take it or make it go away, but I also know that it is part of accepting the reality of life and death in having to accept others passing and how it makes us feel.

So as I enter the later years of my life where I am watching my friends deal with the loss of their parents, I know that there is so much more death around the corner as I get older, I just am not sure how to prepare my heart for the pain that I already feel brought on just by the thought of loss and not yet the actual death. I think I’ll have to go hug a tree, cry and hope I will have the strength to let go as I already have.

Thanks for Reading,





7 Tips to help with the bereaved mother on Mothers day

1. Say Something. Don’t back away from conversation when you hear the news. I mean this literally. Child-loss isn’t contagious. Come closer. If you’re tongue-tied, try starting with this: “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

2. Ask For Details. Don’t worry about “reminding” a mother about her loss. She hasn’t forgotten. She’s simply hidden her child from polite conversation. I’ve met mothers who lost children decades before and haven’t had a chance to speak their names in years. Even if her child died in utero, a mother still had expectations, dreams, a bond. If you’re unsure how to ask, try this: “Can I ask you more?”

3. Offer Support. Even if a bereaved mother seems to be functioning fine, she may still need support—even years later. Grief has no schedule for anyone. For a mother, no matter how much time passes, she’ll always be aware that her child should have outlived her. If the child died very young, she may be the only person in the world carrying that absence. So even if she says she’s fine, try offering your support again.

4. Don’t Say “Everything Will Be Okay.” Having a child die will always feel wrong. However you make sense of loss for yourself, don’t try to explain her own loss to the mother. Avoid saying things like, “Your child’s in a better place,” “Some babies aren’t meant to be born,”  or “Be grateful that you have/will have other children.” Even if she’s religious, she may want to slap you. Just focus on her feelings. Try, “That must be hard.”

5. Be Yourself. Every situation is different. No matter what you read here, you can still be yourself. That’s why you’re friends in the first place. Laugh. Cry. Be goofy. A mother who’s lost a child doesn’t want to lose whatever she loves in you as well. Even if you haven’t loved as a mother, you must know something about love. If you’re afraid of saying the wrong thing, try this: “I’m not sure if this is the right thing to say, but….”  

6. Consult an Expert. If you’ve read this far, you’re devoted to the bereaved mother in your life. But what if you feel out of your league? In the United States each year, one million women suffer pregnancy and neonatal loss alone. Fortunately, the internet makes it possible to connect with other grieving parents on websites such as Compassionate Friends, Reconceiving Loss, Bereaved Parents of the USA, or The Miss Foundation. Try this: “I’ll always be here for you, but have you thought about turning to others for help?”

7. Remember. No one misses her child as much as a mother does. But should she be left alone with the memory? 12 years after the death of my firstborn, I have two more boys. Sometimes I’m so busy you’d think I’d forget him. I don’t. So if you’ve avoided talking with a bereaved mother about her loss, today is the day to change that. Try this: “I want you to know I remember…” and use her child’s name. My son’s name was Silvan. Silvan. For all my grief, there is relief in speaking his name aloud.41zz563lzML._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Monica Wesolowska is the author of Holding Silvan: A Brief Life, named a “Best Book” of 2013 by Library Journal and The Boston Globe. You can read more about her loss and other matters in her New York Times Modern Love column or on her website.

10 Things Everyone Should Know About Siblings & Grief

I wanted to sharee a post for siblings day (April 10th) sorry its late.

10 Things Everyone Should Know About Siblings & Grief

By Dr. Christina Hibbert

1)   Sibling grief is often misunderstood—by parents, families, friends, and counselors, even by the siblings themselves. So much focus is given to the parents of the lost child, to the children of the lost parent, to the spouse of the lost adult sibling. And, rightly so. But, what about the siblings? What about the ones who, like me, have grown up with the deceased? Who believed they would have a lifetime with their sister or brother? Who now face that lifetime alone?

2)   Sibling grief “has been almost entirely overlooked in the literature on bereavement.”[1] It’s no wonder, therefore, that even mental health providers misunderstand sibling grief. How are families supposed to know how to help siblings through grief if even the research on the subject is lacking?

3)   Common emotions siblings may feel when a brother or sister dies include:

  •  Guilt
  • Abandonment
  • Loss of Innocence
  • Fallout from the Family
  • Somatic Symptoms
  • Fears and Anxiety

4)   Siblings may feel “trumped” by the grief of other family members. I sure felt this way, and it’s common, since the focus is usually on the parents if a young sibling dies and on the surviving spouse or children if an older sibling dies. This may lead to minimizing a sibling’s own loss.

5)   Young siblings lose innocence when a brother or sister dies, which may lead to fears and anxiety; “Survivor guilt” is also common. Experiencing death as a child becomes a lifelong experience of processing and understanding the loss. Children grow up with grief, understanding more as they get older. Fear of death or dying is common. Anxiety or worry about getting sick may become prevalent. In young siblings, guilt for provocative behavior or for unacceptable feelings (jealousy) is common. Young children may think, before the death, “I wish my brother were dead!” then believe they somehow caused it to happen. Older siblings may wonder, “Why them and not me?” Because siblings are usually similar in age, it can bring up many questions about the sibling’s own life and death, and guilt along with it.

6)   Surviving children do, unfortunately, end up taking the fallout from parents’, siblings’, or other family members’ mistakes, emotional blowups, or neglect. In many ways, siblings often experience a double loss: the loss of their sister or brother, and the loss of their parents (at least for a time, but sometimes, permanently). I know this from experience. Though my parents did the best they could, after my youngest sister died, our entire family was different. My mom retreated into her own grief, staying in her room, depressed and sick for years. My dad retreated into work and anything to take his mind from his pain. Luckily, I was already on my own, in college, at the time; my younger siblings weren’t so lucky. At 9, 11, 14, and 17 years old, they grew up with a completely different set of parents than I had. I tried to step in as a “parent” figure over the years, but the separation from my parents in their time of need profoundly influenced their lives. It profoundly influenced my life. It profoundly changed our family.

 7)   Siblings may manifest somatic symptoms of grief, including symptoms that mimic the deceased sibling’s symptoms. Especially in young children, symptoms like stomachaches, headaches, nightmares, body pain, digestive symptoms, and trouble sleeping are common. These should be seen as symptoms of grief, and hopefully, an adult in the family can help siblings work through their feelings and show them how to grieve.

 8)   Having someone explain the loss to younger siblings, to be there for them and help them grieve, is ideal. Little children don’t comprehend death in the same way adults do. It is therefore important to have somebody who can walk them through the loss and the grief process, to explain it wasn’t their fault, to validate what they feel. If parents aren’t able to do so, another family member or friend may, and hopefully will, step in.

9)   Even adult siblings will feel the loss deeply. The pain isn’t less simply because you’re older. In fact, in many ways, it’s harder. You understand more. You know what it means to die, and you will feel the pain of the loss in a different way than young children, who still haven’t developed abstract thinking and understanding, will. Grieve your loss. If you’re not sure how, here are some ideas.

 10)  My best advice for siblings in grief: Feel the loss as long as you need to, and give yourself time to heal. Because sibling loss is so misunderstood, you may receive messages that make you feel like you should be “over it by now.” They don’t know sibling loss. Now, you do. It takes time. Lots of time. It’s not about “getting over” the loss of a sibling. You don’t get over it. You create your life and move on, when you’re ready. But you will always remember your brother or sister—the missing piece of your life.

Dr Christina Hibbert lost two sisters growing up, she has many resources for grief and dealing with grief, find them and read her story here.