The Forgotten Ones: Grieving Siblings

I am always afraid that Dominic will be forgotten.  

I’m afraid that as time passes, things change and lives move forward, his place in hearts will be squeezed smaller and smaller until only a speck remains.

Not in my heart, of course.

Or in the hearts of those closest to him, but in general-he will become less relevant.

But he is not the only one who can be forgotten.  I am just as fearful that my living children will be forgotten.

Not in the same way-they are HERE.

They are participating in life and making new memories, new connections and strengthening old ones.

I’m afraid their grief will be overlooked, unacknowledged-swept under the giant rug of life and busyness that seems to cover everything unpleasant or undervalued.

If the course of a bereaved parent’s grief is marked by initial outpouring of concern, comfort and care followed by the falling away of friends, family and faithful companionship then that of a bereaved sibling is doubly so.

Surviving children often try to lessen a grieving parent’s burden by acting as if “everything is OK”.

But it’s not-it is definitely NOT.

missing them from your side

Their world has been irrevocably altered.  They have come face-to-face with mortality, with deep pain, with an understanding that bad things happen-happen to people they love-without warning and without remedy.

They are forced to rethink their family, their faith and their future without a life-long friend and companion.

Part of their history is gone.

If surviving children are young, it can be so, so easy to mistake the natural enthusiasm and excitement of youth for complete healing.  They are often busy with events, education, work and life and the grief they still feel may go unnoticed-even by themselves.

But they need safe, consistent and compassionate care while they navigate grief and the enduring impacts of sibling loss.  School counselors, grief counselors or mature and emotionally stable adult friends can be very helpful during this process.

It’s important to be alert to danger signals.  Behavioral impacts may present in many ways:

  • Anxiety (situational, tests, generalized)
  • Risk taking
  • Isolation
  • Inability to enjoy previously enjoyable activities
  • Withdrawal from family or friends
  • Depression
  • Self-harming behavior
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Poor grades (may have given up or may not be able to concentrate)
  • Extreme concern for other family members and their safety

If you observe any of these changes, get help.  A grieving parent is rarely able to be the sole source of intensive counsel for a bereaved child-someone outside the grief circle may be a better choice.

Adult children-even those married and with kids of their own-are also changed forever by saying “good-bye” to a brother or sister.  Addiction, depression and physical health issues can surface in the wake of loss.  

It’s not always easy to connect the dots back to grief since life is full of stress and strain and they may need help.

My children have been blessed to have friends and loved ones who give them a safe place to go when grief overwhelms them or when other stressors on top of grief make life really hard.

If you know a bereaved sibling:

  • Reach out.
  • Be an encourager.
  • Don’t assume that because time has gone by, they are all better.
  • They may not want to talk about it and that’s OK.  But if they do, listen.  Without platitudes, without judgement-just be a safe place.
  • And if you notice something that’s just not “quite right” try to get them the help they may need to make it through this hard place.

Bereaved families are often doing the best they can, but they can’t do it alone.  

When you bless my earthly children, you bless me.  When you give them space to grieve, you give me space to breathe. When you encourage them, you encourage my heart too.

Don’t forget them.  


Author: Melanie

I am a shepherd, wife and mother of four amazing children, three that walk the earth with me and one who lives with Jesus. This is a record of my grief journey and a look into the life I didn't choose. If you are interested in joining a community of bereaved parents leaning on the promises of God in Christ, please like the public Facebook page, "Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child" and join the conversation.

26 thoughts on “The Forgotten Ones: Grieving Siblings”

  1. We all have one shared bond… losing a child or other loved one. But I seem to be the only one stuck in the middle, between the loss of Ryan 10 weeks ago at age 39 to suicide and his sister, a year younger, who felt tortured by him mostly because he required so much of me. She is angered by a tear, my gazing off into space, or looking at photos of him. I must hold my emotions, complicated by hurt moving back home. I indulge her, but I can only force myself out into this bustling world just so much before I fold myself in half and just need to sit with nothing. My heart is in a different place, and I tell her over and over how sorry I am for how absent from her I was…Some nights I have my silent cry as I ask God to help us, because I cannot even find the words to ask for exactly what we need, other than a strong unbreakable bond. The thought of losing my living child burdens my heart even more💔

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The attachment between my daughter and my son that is no longer with us was very strong. We are both in grief counseling, it helps. #remembertylerblakesmith

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s a couple of months over two years since Luke chose to go back home. His brother and sister as you say Melanie have been very much over looked.
    Our daughter was on the train home for the weekend to celebrate her degree result when the police came to tell us. Her life fell apart. It’s been a hard road for her since. She isolated herself and her anxiety became unmanageable, her hard worked for degree became pointless to her. Evenually she too went to a place were her thoughts turned suicidal. I am thankful that God has a different path for her and is healing but as you say she became unseen.
    So too with our son. He has two young children, he tucked away his grief. He has become very much isolated, doesn’t go out, can’t work and unable to seek help. Recently I can see the beginnings of some “letting go” but it breaks my heart to see him hurting so.
    Our family was small to begin with, only the five of us…four just doesn’t seem enough! Doesn’t hit the mark for us…we flounder. The siblings are floundering being only two and not three. Their grief is very different, the pace of healing is different as was their relationship with their brother.
    This lifelong hurting is so hard to live with, so difficult a path to find a way through. The siblings do get overlooked, I’m guessing people think oh they’re young, they’ll get over it. I don’t think they ever will. I think they will never get iver it. They are changed forever and are still learning to live with their new selves, all at a time when they were only just beginning their adult lives.
    I pray that God protects them and gives them comfort. I ask Him for strength of mind and wisdom to assist them as they heal and for a long life so I can be here for as long as they need me.


    1. I can very much relate to your daughter. I am not sure how old she was/is but I am 35. Blake was 23. Would have been 24 in July. We were 11 years apart and he was my buddy. He would call in the middle of the night. Just to talk. We were wired the same. On March 10th it will be 5 months from when he died. He was a Marine. And my kids (12 and 8) are grieving too. So being a sibling that is grieving and a mom that is grieving along side my two boys is hard. And people do just forget the siblings. We don’t want attention just someone to know we are still here. And still hurting. I am sorry for your loss and please let your son and daughter know they are not alone.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh Stephanie how very hard for you and it is very early in your journey. You will find a way to travel along this road but just by watching my two surviving children I know it is a hard journey.
        Luke was 30 when he died to suicide and his brother 26 and sister 23.
        My thoughts are with you xxx

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks for including siblings. My brother was murdered when I was 11, he was 16. People have always asked dumb questions like, did you understand what was going on or do you remember it? I was 11! I’ve always felt my grief forgotten and diminished. Now my third child has passed away as well and people have a way of belittling that grief as well because he was three months old. I’ve been following your blog. Thanks for writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on My Journey: and commented:
    Children’s Grief Awareness Day is on 17 November, a global day designed to help us all become more aware of the needs of grieving children — and of the benefits they obtain through the support of others.
    The theme for this year’s Children’s Grief Awareness Week is #MakeTime2Listen.
    Key messages:
    1 in 29 children and young people in our schools have been bereaved of a parent or sibling – that’s roughly one per class.
    All too often, bereaved children feel as if no-one understands what they are going through
    They need their families, friends, teachers and communities to listen carefully to them, helping them feel understood and supported
    Even if they haven’t got words to describe how they are feeling or thinking, family and friends can ‘listen’ to their body language and behaviour
    A young person might not want to talk right now, but it’s helpful for them to know someone is there to listen when they are ready
    Parents and carers shouldn’t have to cope alone. Family, friends, colleagues, schools and the government all have a part to play in listening to grieving children
    Specialist support services should be available in all local areas for all grieving children and their families that need them – wherever they live and however they have been bereaved – helping them realise someone is listening
    #MakeTime2Listen this Children’s Grief Awareness Week and throughout the year

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So difficult for the sibling/s left behind. My son turned 19 just a few days before by daughter went to heaven at the age of 17 from cancer. We just passed the 5 1/2 year mark. I cannot reach my son. In the first year, he seemed to kind of ‘disappear’ in a way. He went back to school, didn’t call much and never came home. He had a bit of a bumpy road for a while with some choices he was making. Left school. Moved back home for a while until we moved back to Colorado. He eventually found his way back to us, lived with us when he first got settled, then moved out with his girlfriend. We recently moved to Florida so there is physical distance between us once again. My heart hurts for the boy left behind. The one I used to feel so very close to. He is difficult to connect with. He hates to be on the phone so phone calls are not very productive. He is so pleasant to be with in person, but you never really can get to the heart of things with him. He does not talk about his grief, his sister or being ‘left’ as an only child. It just kills me. I lost a sibling when I was 17, but I had 5 other siblings to lean on. He has none. My heart breaks for all that he has lost. I hope that someday, we find a way back to each other. I love him so dearly. He is now 24.


    1. You are so welcome-it’s hard to balance all the demands as a mother and they are multiplied as a grieving mother. May the Lord strengthen you for each day as you miss Erin and wait for reunion.


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