Chapter 2: Recognizing and understanding your grief

Identifying your losses

I have always been the “big brother.” When my sister died, I felt such a loss – not just missing her but also being aware that I would never again be a big brother.

I thought that once my parents died, my sister would always be there to offer me housing or to help me financially with the costs of medication. She was an emotional and practical safety net for me. When she died, that disappeared, and it affected my grieving process. I couldn't simply grieve her death. I had to consider how it negatively impacted my life and my future.

Since my brother died, I continue to be struck by how his death has changed parts of my life that I wasn’t aware of before – like when summer rolled around and I no longer had my tennis partner. The pain hit me all over again.

Your sibling’s death may bring losses that you – or others – don’t recognize right away. It may take time for you to recognize them and notice their impact. Sometimes these losses are called “secondary,” not because they are less important but because they follow a death. Some may be more obvious than others; some may be unexpected or catch you off guard.

Click on the boxes below to see some examples of these other losses that you may be experiencing after the death of your sibling.

You may feel like you missed an opportunity to say or hear things you were meaning to share. You may have a sense of grief if you felt things were left unfinished or left unsaid between you.


Some of the roles that you and your sibling played in each other’s lives may never be filled, and your grief will include finding ways to live with those losses. In time, other people in your life may be able to step into some roles, but they will never replace your sibling.

What may help

Recognize that there may be significant changes in your roles and life.

Naming your losses and reflecting on them can help you to better understand your thoughts and feelings and find ways to live with your losses. This often takes time and the support of others.

It’s natural to resist change. You may feel angry, resentful, or confused about your losses.

There may also be changes that you welcome. For example, you might be relieved to no longer be worrying about your sibling. This doesn’t cancel out feelings of loss you might have.

Even if you now have no living siblings, you are not an only child. Similarly, you are still a twin, even though your twin has died. The memories and experiences you shared with your sibling will always be part of who you are, and you can carry them forward in your life.

When you are grieving, you may react strongly to a loss that would otherwise seem less important – for example, losing a set of keys or a piece of jewellery.