Written by Winston’s Wish and Maisie, Youth Ambassador
When someone close to you dies, we know it can be an incredibly turbulent time and a really difficult thing to talk about. When that person is your sibling, for some people that can feel like losing not only a relative but a best friend. Sibling loss seems to be talked about much less frequently than the loss of other relatives, and perhaps it’s because people aren’t sure what to say. The relationship between siblings is unique and like no other relative or friend, it’s an unexplainable bond that can make you fight like mad and love each other unconditionally at the same time.
You might be feeling a whole range of emotions if you’ve lost a sibling, from sadness to guilt and even anger that they’re not here anymore. These feelings are completely normal and it’s important to try not to squash them down, but to talk about them with someone you trust. There’s no need to manage your grief alone, there are people who can help you, including support workers at Winston’s Wish.
Maisie was seven years old when Holly sadly died in a natural disaster, she said it felt “like losing a friend” and found it really difficult to talk about. Maisie received support from Winston’s Wish bereavement support workers at the time and found it really helpful and reassuring.
“Without Winston’s Wish I don’t think I would fully be who I am today. Janet March was my counsellor, and I cannot thank her enough for helping me through the difficulty of losing a sibling. I learnt to accept my grief, to not let it become me nor to supress it, and I learnt how to live with it not against it.”
Maisie (Winston’s Wish Youth Ambassador)
Maisie and Holly were born several years apart, so Maisie’s favourite memories sometimes involve her sister being a role model and looking after her. Here’s a memory Maisie shared with us for Siblings Day 2023.
She was probably very jet lagged from being in India or Mexico, but the first thing she did was come to see me.
“After her passing I continued to ask my Mum when she was coming home, despite having sadly witnessed her death, in the hope that maybe it was a dream or a mistake, and she was just off travelling. Although she never came home again, I still have that memory of her to cherish.
“I love and miss her so much, and although it might be sad to bring up the past, talking about the memories and our love for her keeps her forever present in our lives. I know siblings can be annoying and you can fight and have fall outs. But don’t take them for granted, as life is short, and I would do anything to have my big sister back.”
Maisie (Winston’s Wish Youth Ambassador)
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Losing a sibling changes your life in many ways
Losing a sibling might make day-to-day life change enormously, for example if you lived with them, there may be a lot more space and quiet without them. Adapting to the changes grief brings to life can take time, try not to stress if you can’t get your head around things at the moment.
Try to voice your thoughts and concerns, even if just to yourself. It can be very therapeutic to speak out loud to yourself or keep a written record of your feelings. When the time is right, these might be useful notes to share with a professional or someone your trust to gain some support.
A simple question such as, “how many siblings do you have?” can become a complicated, triggering moment. Remember you don’t have to explain yourself in that moment, answer in a way that feels right at that specific time. If the person asking becomes a new friend or someone you frequently talk to, e.g., colleague or classmate, you can talk about it with them when you feel it’s right for you to do so.
“I always dread when the sibling question comes up, because if I say I have a sister then the questions unravel – are they older or younger? Are you close? What do they do? Where do they live? But these are questions to answer in your own time in the way you feel appropriate. I sometimes answer yes, I have a sister, and then swiftly change the topic if I don’t feel close enough to share with the person asking.
“Also, Holly was my only sibling, so I’ve even had people close to me refer to me as an only child or tell me that I know what ‘only child syndrome’ feels like, despite knowing about Holly. Although from the age of seven I grew up without Holly, that doesn’t remove the fact she lived and is still my sister.
“For others who might relate to this, don’t let other people remove their existence because they are no longer around. They will always be important to you, a part of you, and are the reason you are who you are today.”
Maisie, Winston’s Wish Youth Ambassador
Grief and the effects it might bring to life can be different for every individual, they can also be different on a daily basis for each individual. There’s nothing wrong about the way you’re feeling and talking to someone about your emotions could really help. When you’re ready, we’re here to listen.
How to speak to Winston’s Wish
If you’re struggling with grief right now, Winston’s Wish is here to help and here to listen. Winston’s Wish provides support for grieving children and young people (up to the age of 25). We offer one-to-one and group support sessions. We also have lots of online resources and a Helpline, email and live chat service where you can talk to bereavement professionals.
If you need urgent support in a crisis, you can contact the 24/7 Winston’s Wish Crisis Messenger by texting WW to 85258.