How to Comfort Someone Who Has Lost a Sibling

Опубликовал Admin
22-02-2021, 10:20
Losing a sibling is a painful, heart-breaking experience. If someone you know has recently experienced this kind of loss, find out what you can do to comfort and support this person in a time of need. By talking, making gestures, and better understanding the process of grieving, you can provide a friend or a loved one with the support necessary to survive and recover from his or her sibling's death.

Taking Actions to Support a Grieving Person

  1. Offer to run errands. Unfortunately, the bustle of everyday life doesn't go away when you lose someone close to you. Help out by taking care of some of these daily needs. Ask him or her if you can help with groceries, flowers for the funeral, or anything else. Simple gestures like these will go a long way to comforting and supporting someone during this hard time.
  2. Prepare meals. Bringing frozen meals over is a safe bet for someone who is grieving. This will show that you care and want to ease the pain of the grieving process by letting him or her focus energy on the family rather than figuring out what to make for dinner.
  3. Help with arrangements. If there are any responsibilities that have to do with the funeral, housing relatives, or providing transport for people, lend a hand with these tasks. These responsibilities can be a heavy burden when trying to deal with the weight of loss. You may not be able to do all of them for this person, such as talking to a funeral home director or providing a place to stay for visiting family, but any help you can manage will lighten the load.
  4. Take his or her mind off things. He or she may occasionally need a break from thinking about what's happened with a sibling. Take him or her to see a movie, pack a picnic, or do something else together that could be enjoyable. It doesn't need to be anything expensive or elaborate; the gesture and the company count the most.
  5. Keep your availability open. It's true that your friend or loved one may need concentrated support right after the death, but grief requires a lot of time and effort to process. If you want to provide comfort to the best of your abilities, understand that it may take months or even years to deal with the loss. Offer support at the beginning, but keep him or her in mind later as well. Many people's support will fall off after a while. If you truly want to help, be sensitive to the needs and the pain for as long as it takes.

Talking to a Grieving Person

  1. Ask how you can help. Avoid presuming that you know what will make him or her feel better. They may know of specific things you can do to be supportive and there's nothing wrong with asking. It shows your willingness to stand by his or her side while through the journey of grieving a lost sibling.
    • For example, you can say "I'm so sorry for your loss. Is there anything I can do to help you right now?"
  2. Listen. Let him or her know that you are there if he or she needs someone to speak with. Talking about feelings can help process the death of a sibling. Be a sympathetic ear, to the extent that you can, if he or she needs to express the painful set of emotions.
    • He or she may want to talk about his or her relationship with the sibling while still alive. This can be a good way to memorialize the sibling.
    • Avoid interjecting too much of your own feelings and experiences. You may have had a similar loss, but be mindful of being a burden with your own past. Your friend may need emotional space.
  3. Acknowledge the loss. You don't need to go into a lot of detail, especially if she hasn't offered the information freely, but by validating the event you can show her your willingness to engage with her in this difficult time.
    • For example, you can say "I heard about the loss of your sibling. I'm so sorry."
    • Don't put too much pressure on yourself to come up with exactly the right thing to say. In most cases, it's enough just to be present with the person so they know you're there for them.
    • You might also look for ways to celebrate the life of the person who passed, like doing an activity they really loved or creating a memorial in their honor.
  4. Help him or her understand that his or her pain makes sense. Losing a sibling can be a powerful experience. A response of intense sadness and grief is often totally appropriate. Helping him or her understand that a strong emotional reaction is both "normal" and "understandable" is a good way of showing support.
    • For example, you can say "It's okay for you to be sad right now. I understand. I would feel the same way."
    • You can also tell him or her that it's understandable if they have specific painful feelings related to being siblings (like guilt). These emotions are understandable to experience, even if they are ultimately misguided.
  5. Talk to his or her family and friends about supporting him or her. Unfortunately, sometimes the loss of a sibling can be overshadowed by the loss of a child. Parents can sometimes "take the spotlight" in the aftermath of these events. Surviving siblings are often referred to as "forgotten grievers." If you think your friend or loved one may be getting overlooked, talk to other siblings, parents, or friends about providing support.
    • For example, you can say "I'm worried about [name]. I think [he or she] is taking the loss really hard and needs support."
    • Be mindful of other people's suffering. Avoid bringing this up to suffering family members if you're an outsider to the family. Talking to her other close friends may be a safer bet.
  6. Gently recommend counseling if it seems appropriate. Grief is normal, but sometimes this kind of loss can result in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, if the loss involved trauma. If he or she appears to be having a really difficult time coping with the loss, suggest that it could be helpful to speak with a professional mental health worker.
    • For example, you can say "You must have been really close to your sibling. Have you thought about talking to a professional who can help you understand what you're going through?"
    • You might also suggest that the person attend a local support group for people who've lost a loved one.
  7. Avoid well-meaning but unhelpful statements. In an effort to comfort someone without really knowing how, you may reach for the most familiar thing to say. However well-intentioned, offering up "stock" or "stereotypical" platitudes can simply make her feel worse. Rather than comforting, these statements can gloss over the pain of the moment and try to usher in a level of acceptance that isn't appropriate. For example, here are some phrases you probably want to avoid:
    • "You'll feel better soon."
    • "Time heals all wounds."
    • "At least you still have your other family members."
    • "Everything happens for a reason."

Understanding Grief

  1. Look for the five stages of grief. There are five different stages of grief that people go through following this kind of loss. Memorize these steps so that you can figure out where your friend is at in the process and try to help with each specific step. Remember that people are different and some do not go through the stages in order and can revisit past stages before reaching acceptance.
    • Denial is first. Denial of the reality of the loss is a normal reaction. It may seem like he or she doesn't realize the death of her sibling. It may not have set in yet.
    • Anger comes next. Once the reality of the loss does set in, it's normal to experience anger over the loss. He or she may be angry at the sibling, at herself, or at someone else.
    • Bargaining is third. This shows up as a desire to change the situation, such as wishing that he or she had done something differently.
    • Depression is the fourth step. This is the stage where people mourn the loss and bid the person farewell. It's an essential step in the process of grieving.
    • Acceptance is the final stage. After all of the stages of resistance to loss, acceptance is the stage where people finally come to terms. It's not happiness, but it is calm compared to the stages before it.
  2. Pay attention to specific issues with losing a sibling. The grief of losing a loved one is bad enough, but losing a sibling often creates specific painful responses. For example, someone may feel bad about how he or she treated her sibling in the past. A person may feel "survivor's guilt" over being left alive. When talking to your friend or loved one and doing things for him or her, be aware of these difficult issues associated with the loss of a sibling. If you notice that he or she is feeling these things, try to reassure him or her that it was not his or her fault.
  3. Give him or her plenty of time. Grief does not always have a timeline and time does not necessarily heal all wounds. You can expect him or her to get better as time passes, but they may never make a full recovery. People respond differently to loss. Avoid pushing someone to move on. Allow the person to grieve and recover at his or her own pace. If you feel yourself getting impatient, it's better to back off and let someone else offer support than to pass those feelings on to her.
  4. Be aware that this person may need space. It's perfectly okay for him or her to spend some time alone. He or she may want to dedicate time and energy to thinking about his or her sibling and processing all of the emotions that come up. If your friend or loved one says that he or she needs space, try to be understanding. Tell him or her that you're here if he or she does need someone to talk to or be around.


  • If he or she needs to cry, let him or her cry in front of you. Don't try to cheer this person up, just be there.


  • If you think this person may be suicidal, don't leave him or her alone. Contact his or her family and let them know what's going on. You may want to suggest calling a psychologist for this person to talk with.
  • Don't try to compare a death in your own family with their loss. You probably mean well but it won't help.
  • Remember your needs as well. If you feel overwhelmed, turn to someone in your own support network.
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