The Unique Nature of Sibling Loss

I can still remember the call that told me my younger brother was dead. It was from my grandmother. Funnily enough, I’d been contemplating that my grandparents were getting old and that I needed to prepare myself for their deaths. I never expected that I would receive a call from them to tell me that my brother had crashed his car into a lamp post on the way home from a concert and was killed immediately. He was 17; I was 22.

The death of a sibling is strange. Everyone asks how your parents are, but everyone seems to forget about you. It’s as if you are not important. Your role is there to provide support to everyone else. Somehow it didn’t surprise me when I went looking for information on the internet and found that siblings were known as the “forgotten mourners.”

The relationship between siblings is unique. There is no one else in the world that you have such a love-hate relationship with. I know that I would curse my brother harshly but if anyone else did, then I would attack them for it. Siblings have a right that no one else has. It means that you can show your worst to them and know that they will still forgive you afterwards and speak to you like nothing was wrong.

Some people attibute this gift to parents too. Yet it is different. As a sibling, you are allowed to know hidden activitives, beliefs, attitudes and dreams that are never shared with parents. As your sibling grows older, this perspective can be transferred to partners but siblings seem to share the most information.

When you lose a sibling, you also lose your identity. Your sibling has always been part of your life. They have helped define who you are and your role within the family. It leads you to question who you are and what your life purpose is.

If you are younger like myself, you also lose the chance to develop a relationship based on friendship with someone who has known you your whole life. I know that my relationship with my brother was changing as he died. Although he was my younger brother, his wisdom at times made him appear to be my older brother. I was grateful for someone who was looking out for me. And I was so angry that this had been taken away from me. I was also angry that I would never see him get married, have children or grow old so I could tease him about how ugly he was getting.

Your sibling is also your peer, so it leads you to question your own mortality. It also leads you to question why them and not me. In my attempt to make sense of this question, I moved into the realm of helping others affected by loss transform grief, find peace and feel more positive about the future. It was my way of justifying my brother’s death.

It’s now been over 8 years since my brother died, and I am at peace with it. It’s ok that I’ll never fight with him again or hug and make up. It’s ok that I’ll never know what man he would have grown into. I still think about him every day and I talk to him a lot. I’ve created a new relationship with him that continues on after death. After all, he is my brother and always will be. Not even death can take that away from me.

Tabitha Jayne 2011

Tabitha Jayne

More Articles Written by Tabitha

Tabitha Jayne is a leading expert in the field of grief and growth coaching, having first developed an interest in the topic following the sudden death of her younger brother. The founder of “Transform Grief. Live Fully. Thrive Loss” coaching and workshops, Tabitha is also the creator of “Tree of Transformation”, a five-step process that helps individuals fully let go of grief and transform loss into a lasting legacy that positively impacts both themselves and the world. Her latest book is Thriving Loss: Move beyond grief to a place of peace, passion and purpose. She is also a contributing author in Open to Hope: Inspirational stories of healing after loss and has presented on The Transformative Power of Nature in Grief and Loss at the International Conference on Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society and the ADEC Annual Conference. She is also the Head Coach of Grief & Growth Coaching at the International Coach Academy. She says, “The death of my brother was the most profound experience and loss in my life. It made me realise that life is too short and challenged me to transform my own life into something that I was proud of. Despite all the pain and anguish, all the tears and hurt, my brother dying is one of the best things that happened to me. Peter motived me to learn to live life fully both as tribute to him and to gain meaning from tragedy.” Tabitha is a Certified Professional Coach from the International Coach Academy and an Associate Certified Coach with the International Coaching Federation. Her academic background is in Psychology with a BSc (Hons) from Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh where she conducted research into “Attachment and the Type of Loss Experienced by the Bereaved in Continuing Bonds”. She is currently completing a M.S. in Applied Ecopsychology and Coaching in Grief and Growth with Project NatureConnect, The Institute of Global Education. Prior to founding ‘Transform Grief. Live Fully. Thrive Loss’ and working with clients worldwide helping them to live more and grieve less, Tabitha was the co-founder and director of Pedro Project, a non-profit organization which ran for 6 years providing information, advice and support to help bereaved young people. During this time she was a finalist in the Everywoman 2004 awards as well as Cosmopolitan´s Fun, Fearless Female 2006 Awards. She was also featured in The Sun, The Sunday Post Magazine, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Edinburgh Evening News and on local and regional radio as well as in the Channel 4 documentary for young adults entitled “Losing You” Get your free audio of the Introduction and Chapter One of Thriving Loss: Move beyond grief to a place of peace, passion and purpose at www.tabithajayne.com

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  • Brandy C. says:

    This article completely resonated with me and all the things I’ve been experiencing since the loss of my younger brother almost 6 months ago to a car accident. I was 28 at the time and he was 26. We as siblings had our natural ups and downs in life, but at the end of the day we were best friends and always there for each other no matter what. That bond between us could never be broken. I look out from a world of darkness, confusion and sheer incoherence as to how my life fits now without his presence. I still long to see him continue the journey he had just really begun to becoming the great man he was setting out to be amidst a life filled with struggles. Sometimes I think it angers me more that he never got the chance to see any of his dreams come true before he was taken from this Earth. And I never got the chance to sit back, witness and dote on his accomplishing them as he did so much of the time for me and my journey to my dreams. I graduate college in a couple of months and its a journey I’ve been on for 5 1/2 years now. I just can’t fathom that he’s not here now to see the support and belief he had in me all these years finally come to fruition. I struggle every day to piece back together the person I was prior to this and to how my life will proceed going forward in his absence. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever endured in my entire life and no one really seems to understand the impact of losing a sibling has on the ones of us that are left behind. My relationship still continues with him beyond his death. I talk to him every day and feel his presence beside me still in the steps I continue to take. I hope others in the same unfortunate tragedy you and I have endured can read this article and feel as I did, like someone was looking inside me and spilling the contents of my soul without me uttering a solitary word. Thank you for sharing your story and grief. I’m so very sorry for your loss and so very inspired that you’ve found the courage to accept, move forward and persevere. My journey to that has really just barely begun.

  • Heidi says:

    I lost my 15 year old brother to suicide on March 30th 2010. I can identify with so many parts of this, its made me feel normal. Thank you…

  • Tabitha Jayne says:

    Brandy and Heidi – I am so sorry to hear about your brothers but glad that by writing this I could provide you with some comfort. I have written another article that hasn’t been published yet but I’m going to send it to you via email in the hope that it may provide even more support. Sending you much love xxx

  • Lisa Wilbor says:

    I lost my only brother at 23 in a car accident coming home from the syracuse game at this time last year.

  • Tabitha Jayne says:

    Lisa,

    Anniversaries can be a difficult time – my thoughts are with you.

    Tabitha

  • I lost my brother on the 6th of this month. I feel so much of this article pertaining to me…it seems like the only thing that sticks out in my mind at this point, even after the funeral, etc. was the phone call from my sister saying he was in a car accident and was dead. He was on the way to myrtle beach with my brother (his twin) and my older sister to see my grandfather in his final days. I feel very lost right now. My son was very close with his uncle (the picture on my facebook is of them playing together), so not only do I hurt for myself, but my family as well. It does make me question my own mortality, as well as others around you because I’m so scared to lose anyone else. Thank you for this article.

  • Tabitha Jayne says:

    Chelsea,

    I’m glad the article resonated with you. You’ll be in my thoughts over the coming months. Sending you lots of love xxx

  • Rhonda says:

    I lost my brother June 10, 2011. He died in a motorcycle accident. His death was immediate. He had just pulled out of the parking lot at work. Our mother’s birthday is coming up and I was just about to call him to discuss our plans for her birthday.

    I am 5 years older than my brother. My brother got married in 2001 and he simply demanded that I coordinate his wedding and I did just that. He and his wife gave me a pair of diamond earings as a thank-you gift, but the best gifts of all were the 2 nephews I got a few years later.

    As a single woman I am often asked if it is lonely being single. I usually smirk and say no even though there have been some days that I would feel a little lonely. Well that loneliness is NOTHING like the loneliness I’m feeling now. I now KNOW what lonely feels like. I feel empty and alone! My YOUNGER brother was MUCH wiser and he was my protector when we would be out and about. When we would go shopping on Black Friday, I NEVER even thought about my surroundings because I knew he was looking out for me. Whenever we would go out to dinner or partying, my safety was not my concern! I could put my brain on pause because I was with my brother. Even though I can put my brain on pause when I’m with my dad, I would never be with my dad partying because that’s what I did with my brother.

    I can not adequately explain how I’m feeling right now. All I know is that I’m tired of people asking me how the rest of the family is doing as if I’m supposed to be ok and help everybody else thru their grief. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with!!! I miss him and I want to call him and tell him how things are going so he can help me deal with all that’s going on. It seemed like whenever he was going thru something and needed a shoulder, I was there for him; and whenever I needed a shoulder, he was there for me. Today I need my brother’s shoulder and wisdom to get me thru this.

  • Rhonda,

    I’m so sorry to hear about your brother. It’s funny how at some stage our younger brothers turn into our protectors. There are no words that I can offer you right now but know that you are in my heart right now surrounded with love.

    From one big sister to another,

    Tabitha xxx

  • Rhonda says:

    Thanks Tabitha

  • Thank you for sharing your story about your brother’s death. My younger sister died when I was 12 years old, and I can relate to your experience of people asking how your parents were but not you. I found the whole experience incredibly difficult because I was unable to communicate how I felt – it was almost taboo to talk about my sister who had died. It’s really important that when a child dies, attention is paid to the surviving siblings for whom there may be extra confusion around what has happened.

  • Tracy Shilt says:

    On August 5, 2003 around 11:08 pm my brother was stopped at a red light 2 blocks from his and our parents house(he lived down the alley from my parents)along with my 13yr old nephew he had just went to go get to spend the night with him when a man walked up to his window, as my brother turned to look at him he shot my brother point blank in the chest and in his heart!! As my brother tried to pull away he shot at the car several more times.He made it to my parents house and banged on the garage door yelling to my father “Dad I’ve been shot.He collasped in my fathers arms saying “Dad don’t let me Die!”At 12:07am August 6,2003 (59 minutes later) my brother,bestfriend and the “love of my life” DIED in the emergency room at the hospital that was 10 minutes from his house.I still can’t believe it!! In one moment my whole life was destroyed along with my familys and his 4 yr old daughter and 7yr old son.I”am totally devastated and broken hearted!! It is so unbelivable. My 27yr old brother was murdered on a attempted carjacking on his car.They still haven’t found the person that did it.

  • Ruby, I couldn’t agree with you more (or could agree with you more – which is the american way to say it)

    Tracy – what a traumatic experience to lose your brother in that way. I hope that you’ll be able to find peace in all of this. Sending you lots of love and hugs.

    Tabitha

  • Brianna says:

    On July 11th, 2007 my 18 year old brother was killed in an accident. He was on his motorcycle on his way home from work when someone didn’t see him, cut him off, and struck him. I was 15 at the time. I am now older than my big brother was when he died and it was never supposed to be that way. I’m left with a piece of my heart missing. After four years, his death is still hard to accept. I miss laughing with him, arguing with him. Everything.

  • Santiago says:

    It’s been 17 years since I lost my younger brother. I was 18 and he was 16. The forgotten mourner part still applies to this day. People always ask how my parents fell, but I never get the “how do you feel” question. I still fell angry, even angrier. All the things you mention are completely true. It is as though my mind just froze in time; it feels like it just happened yesterday. Should my parents die first, I will be all alone and that is the most torturing part. I am glad you found peace and that you have been able to “get over” your siblings passing.

  • Melissa says:

    I was just on the verge of giving up hope cause the pain hurts too much!! when I think bout him. the process of grief, loss, err all the above. I’m so glad I came across your story though, I can totally reasonate most of what you have shared and that’s how I feel most towards my brother too especially that hate and love relationship!!! I hear you on that. I def think bout him everyday too!! but I had never thought creating new relationship with him after his death. such a great perspective you have. I want to thank you so much for your courage to share your story!! Its so hopeful to me!! I loss my brother from gliblostaoma brain cancer stage 4. It was totally unexpected!! and I also never thought I would get that phone call too from my older sister from the other side from the state. telling my parents and I the news.