Chapter 3: How your sibling’s death may affect you

If you are an older adult

I thought I might be the first to go as I’m the oldest, but here I am. All my life I’ve been looking after my kid sister. It’s all different now.

My brothers and I shared so many good times together over the years – a lifetime of memories, adventures, family, and travels. It’s just me now and I miss them both dearly.

My sister, in some ways, connected me to both my childhood and my parents, who are also gone. I’d say, “What was that song Mother used to sing to us?” and she’d sing it for me. I feel like so many memories and stories died right along with her.

As an older adult, it is likely that you have experienced losses throughout your lifetime. This may have included the death of a parent, of friends or perhaps even other siblings. Although you have experienced other losses, the grief you experience after the death of a sibling is as unique as the relationship you shared with them.

When you have shared many years with your sibling, their death may impact your life in many ways. You may feel a sense of loneliness or even abandonment, especially if you were close or are the last of your surviving siblings. You may find their death has made you reflect on your own mortality or has made you feel worried or anxious about what the future holds for you.  

If your sibling had a family, you might find yourself providing support to them. You may take comfort in being able to offer them support or to share in the grief they are experiencing. You may feel that your grief is overshadowed by their loss or unsupported because of the anticipation or expectation of grief experience for older adults.   

What may help

Allow yourself to move in and out of grief as you need to.

Speak with family or friends about your grief and what you are experiencing. They may offer to help and provide support in ways that are helpful for you.

If talking about how you are feeling is not something that you easily do, you can find other ways to express your grief. You might write or draw in a private journal or create music or art that you can share.

If you feel isolated in your grief, try connecting with members of your community or others who may have experienced a similar grief.