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The Sibling Connection

Surviving Siblings and the Four Basic Emotions


          Whether your sibling died recently or long ago, you may find that you still have significant emotional energy around specific issues. This page describes the four basic emotions and what often triggers these emotions for bereaved siblings.

          The four emotions are actually families of emotions, often referred to as "Mad, Sad, Glad, and Bad (Guilt and Anxiety)." Click on each of the four emotions to see other feelings that are in that particular family.

          You can use the information on this page to help you work through your own experience. Compare and contrast what is here with your own personal experience. You can add to the list by
emailing me.

MAD
Click here for word bank


          Why are bereaved siblings still mad--days, months, or even years after the death of their brother or sister? Here are some of the reasons.


  • The loss of their brother or sister was not acknowledged by parents or other relatives, or friends.

  • The manner in which they got the news of the death did not feel right.

  • Others expected the surviving sibling to take care of the parents or to make up for the loss.

  • How they were treated immediately after hearing the news. Some were ignored, some were sent to stay with a relative, some were not given any information....

  • Because of the way that they, or another sibling, was treated in the months and years after the loss. For example, some were blamed for not being the one who died, some were targeted as a scapegoat for the parent's anger.

  • Their peers had no awareness of the reality of life and death, so they felt as if they were now different from them.

  • Because life went on as normal.

  • They were not allowed to grieve or were encouraged to feel guilty for grieving.

  • No one talked about the death and the dead sibling was never mentioned.

  • They didn't get to see the body.

  • The sibling's spouse doesn't seem upset.

  • They don't agree with some aspect of the funeral, burial site, or gravestone.

  • They don't feel the sibling got the appropriate care while in hospital.

  • They saw the body in a broken and wounded state, after a car accident, for example.

  • They were not allowed or encouraged to go to or participate in the funeral.

  • They didn't know how to deal with their feelings.

  • They weren't informed about the severity of their sibing's illness.

  • Someone else survived who was involved in the accident that killed their sibling.

  • They had to babysit, clean house, or be responsible for other chores while parents were at the hospital, sheriff's office, funeral home, etc.

  • No one ever asked how they were feeling. They often heard "How are your parents?"

  • They had to grow up overnight.

  • They were blamed for acting out and trying to get attention, when they were too young to understand what was really happening.

  • They were over-protected after the loss.

  • They were expected to "become" the dead sibling.

  • They didn't get a chance to say good-bye.

  • The dead sibling's belongings were given away or disposed of without their consent.

SAD
Click here for word bank


          Bereaved siblings still feel sorrow and sadness from the many losses associated with the death of a brother or sister.
  • The loss of companionship and a future with their sibling.

  • Loss, at least for a time, of the parents while they were grieving.

  • Loss of parts of the self that were projected onto the deceased sibling.

  • Loss of innocence.

  • Missing out on peer related activities.

  • Feeling left out.

  • Not getting the attention they needed to deal with such a profound loss.

  • Being lonely.

  • There is a hole when they visit their other sibings, because it is then obvious that one is missing. The presence of other family members reminds them forcibly of this fact.

  • Sorry that they can't go back and make up for something they did or said.


GLAD
Click here for word bank

          Yes, bereaved siblings emerge from the experience glad about a number of issues. Not every bereaved sibling has the same experience, but here are some of the reasons...
  • They are able to be with others who are grieving, and listen.

  • They appreciate life and relationships.

  • They have a deeper spiritual life.

  • They still feel connected to the deceased sibling.

  • Life is more real to them.

  • Some say they no longer fear death.

  • They have the sense of being guarded by an angel.

  • When troubled in other relationships, they feel that their deceased sibling is always on their side.

  • When they engage in activities once shared with their sibling, they feel the presence of that sibling.

BAD (Guilt and Anxiety)
Click here for word bank

  • Fear of doctors and hospitals.

  • Fear of doing whatever the sibling was doing that led to the death--swimming, driving, horseback riding.

  • Fear of their own children's death.

  • Watchfulness for symptoms related to the sibling's illness.

  • Belief that life will never be the same again.

  • Having the sense that they will not live long.

  • Anxiety about their parents' death.

  • Guilt about fights with the deceased sibling.

  • Guilt about how they acted at the time of the illness, for example, going out with friends instead of staying with their sibling.

  • Thinking they should have prevented the death, or that they caused the death, for example by giving their sibling a disease.

  • Guilt about going on with life, surviving at all, or for being happy.

  • A fear that something else terrible is going to happen, not trusting life.

  • Thinking they should be perfect and never complain.

  • Guilt about a number of things they did or didn't do prior to the death.



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