Adult Grief After a Traumatic Death

however, fire a brother or divorce a sister. You may not have been very close; you may not have spoken for years; you may not even liked him or her, but there is still a bond between you. That bond may seem especially strong, now that your brother or sister has died. Other loved ones can feel like biological brothers or sisters, even though they are not related by blood. Step or half siblings, cousins who are very close, and best friends. So can a sister or brother-in-law, someone who lived with your family or a neighbor with whom you shared daily life. Those ties may extend back to childhood. When someone says, “We were like brothers,” or, “She was like a sister to me,” he or she is describing a relationship that differs from that of friendship, although friendship may be involved. Changes in the Family When your sibling was killed, you not only lost a unique loved one, but you lost that person’s role within the family as well. If your sibling organized the family parties, someone else must now take on that role. If your brother was the peacemaker during family quarrels, someone else must now take on that responsibility. You may feel your sibling’s loss deeply as you become aware of the special part he or she played within your family. It is normal that you and other siblings will try to “fill in” some of these roles. Some changes may take place quite naturally and easily, while others may feel awkward and cause conflict within the family.

When a brother or sister dies, you experience a gap in the birth order. If the oldest sibling was killed, the second oldest is now the oldest. If there were just the two of you, you are now an “only child.” It is difficult to know whether or not you should try to assume a new role, but you are painfully aware of the hole left by your sibling’s death.

Grief can expand to every area of your life.

If the sibling who was killed was your twin or part of a multiple birth, you probably feel that part of yourself died too. You will need to work hard at rational thinking to prevent yourself from concluding that the “wrong one” died.

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