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Anyone lost a sibling as a child?
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spinachmonster · 09/05/2022 11:53

I was just about 4 when my younger brother died aged 9months. I didn't think it was a big deal at the time really as it was all I knew. Only when I got older did I realise it's (very luckily) quite unusual in our country- U.K.)

Now I'm in my 40's it somehow seems bigger than ever. I don't think I processed it at all at the time and I can see now how much it has affected my life and behaviour.
(Especially since becoming a parent in my 30's, the significance of it really sunk in.)

Just wondered because I don't know anyone else this has happened to. I wondered if anyone else has experienced anything similar and if so, have any tips about how to process/ deal with it. Remember him.

Thank you.

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Workinghardeveryday · 09/05/2022 11:54

So sorry for your loss xx.

I would suggest therapy to help you process how you are feeling

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spinachmonster · 09/05/2022 12:44

Thank you @Workinghardeveryday I think you are right. I have had some in the past, not currently something I can do but hope to again in the future.

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acquiescence · 11/05/2022 11:56

I’m not in your position but I am a parent of a child who lost his toddler sibling at the same age as you lost yours. I wonder if you feel there’s anything that could have been different in your childhood years to support you with the loss of your brother? Did you talk about him as a family often, and do you still now?

I hope you are able to find some support to help you through. Becoming a parent can change our perspectives on our lives quite significantly, with no guidance of how to navigate it.

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BeyondPurpleTulips · 11/05/2022 12:03

Not me but DW, she has a genetic problem (one that can be diagnosed/"fixed" easier now with scans and IVF) that means she lost two siblings as a child. One (early 90's) shortly after birth, and one (late 90's) as a late TFMR.
Her parents didn't cope well either (one became alcoholic and the other a serial cheat) and she had a fairly traumatic childhood. She is under mh help atm, so I can't advise strategies - but you are not alone Flowers

How was the rest of your childhood?

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ServantofthePeople · 14/05/2022 21:05

My husband is a surviving twin. He hasn’t really thought about it but it’s been rubbish for my MIL. She ended up having a ceremony years later (quite common today I think).

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spinachmonster · 15/05/2022 07:58

acquiescence · 11/05/2022 11:56

I’m not in your position but I am a parent of a child who lost his toddler sibling at the same age as you lost yours. I wonder if you feel there’s anything that could have been different in your childhood years to support you with the loss of your brother? Did you talk about him as a family often, and do you still now?

I hope you are able to find some support to help you through. Becoming a parent can change our perspectives on our lives quite significantly, with no guidance of how to navigate it.

@acquiescence
I'm just so so sorry to hear this. 😭

It's a good question. I think they were so consumed by grief it was hard for them to think about what might help. Also it was the 80's so maybe children's experiences were less listened to. Saying that, my mum was a counsellor so she knew and valued the importance of that. I'm pretty sure I didn't have any but I think things that would help are;

Grief counselling for the child. (I heard Winstons Wish can be good for resources- you've probably heard of them.)

Certainly remembering the sibling and maybe trying to include them more eg making a cake together on their birthday. - sort of trying to make the transition from sibling to no sibling a bit gentler...

Letting the child talk freely about what happened.

He would come up in conversation but almost always accompanied by my mum crying (understandably), so I think that meant I maybe didn't talk as much as I might have.

When I look back, my overriding feeling is of us all in separate worlds. My Dad had to keep working, my mum said she'd drop me at school then come home and collapse. We didn't have any other family nearby. I would say if you can, try to make as much family time as possible so your son feels safe in the middle of your family, however small or big it is.

I would say though it really didn't feel devastating to me as a child, it was all I knew and kind of thought that sort of thing happened to everyone.

It's the most devastating thing in the world that you are trying to navigate here, I wish you and your family a huge amount of love and strength.

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spinachmonster · 15/05/2022 08:12

BeyondPurpleTulips · 11/05/2022 12:03

Not me but DW, she has a genetic problem (one that can be diagnosed/"fixed" easier now with scans and IVF) that means she lost two siblings as a child. One (early 90's) shortly after birth, and one (late 90's) as a late TFMR.
Her parents didn't cope well either (one became alcoholic and the other a serial cheat) and she had a fairly traumatic childhood. She is under mh help atm, so I can't advise strategies - but you are not alone Flowers

How was the rest of your childhood?

@BeyondPurpleTulips
I'm so sorry to hear about what happened to your wife. It sounds like not only those tragedies but that then things spiralled on top. I really hope she is getting the support she needs now, both with the losses and the fallout from them.

My childhood was really good that aside thank you, I've been so lucky. My parents went on to have my sister, though it was almost 4 years later. I will feel lucky forever to have had her in my life. I really hope your wife is ok.

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spinachmonster · 15/05/2022 08:15

ServantofthePeople · 14/05/2022 21:05

My husband is a surviving twin. He hasn’t really thought about it but it’s been rubbish for my MIL. She ended up having a ceremony years later (quite common today I think).

It's so fascinating how different people respond isn't it? I'm really glad he doesn't seem to be badly affected by that. I really feel for your MIL. So often things are brushed aside which should be given serious attention and thought.

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TheWildRumpyPumpus · 15/05/2022 08:20

Sorry to hear you lost your sibling at such an early age OP. I’ve not had the experience myself but my husband’s sister died before he was born and it was never spoken about in their household - he didn’t even know what her name was when I asked him. It sounds like that’s the only way his Mum could cope with it all but I often wonder how that was for their older brother who knew and loved her.

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romdowa · 15/05/2022 08:23

My nan lost a sibling which wasn't uncommon at the time but even at 90 years of age , she would cry when she spoke of her sister. The way it was handled though was awful , her sister was just taken away and never brought home again, her parents never spoke of the child again and never told their children what happened, nans teenage brother told the younger ones that she wouldn't be coming home, they used to wait at the gate every day for her The girl was 4 when she passed. It had a profound affect on my poor nan.

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Roseau18 · 15/05/2022 08:31

My baby brother died when I was a toddler. It was never spoken about. It caused huge feelings of guilt about being responsable for his death since like many toddlers with a new sibling I said I wished he wasn't there and then he was taken to hospital and never came home.
As a mother myself I can understand how terrible it must have been for my mother (he had a congenital heart problem which these days would not be fatal) but the secrets around it has had huge repercussions on my life.

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PinkSkiesAtNight · 15/05/2022 08:33

I'm so sorry to hear your story @spinachmonster I have not been in your situation, but my son is. His sister became ill with a very rare genetic disease at 11 months. She died at 14 months when my son was almost 4. He is now 6. We talk about my daughter as naturally as possible, we celebrate her birthday (DS has already found some ladybird candles to celebrate her would-be 4th birthday next January), his friends that knew her talk about her.

My way of coping is very much put it away and get on with it but I am aware that I have a lot buried that I need to deal with at some point. My son seems fine, he seems to have accepted it, but he gets very angry with me in a way that is not age/developmentally appropriate and I am currently talking to his school about further counselling. He was offered it before but he was too little, I think, for it to be effective.

From what you say about your DM crying whenever your brother was mentioned, it sounds like your reaction was to shut it away then, when a more positive way of remembering your brother may have helped you deal with it and allow you to express your feelings.

I am very aware that I am not OK, although to everyone else I know that I appear that way. I think my son is probably the same, although his life experience involved divorce from his dad, just before and then the pandemic, but grief counselling is definitely on the cards, and to continue talking about my little girl.

When you can, grief counselling would probably be very helpful to you now. Sending lots of hugs and support, OP.

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acquiescence · 15/05/2022 08:34

spinachmonster · 15/05/2022 07:58

@acquiescence
I'm just so so sorry to hear this. 😭

It's a good question. I think they were so consumed by grief it was hard for them to think about what might help. Also it was the 80's so maybe children's experiences were less listened to. Saying that, my mum was a counsellor so she knew and valued the importance of that. I'm pretty sure I didn't have any but I think things that would help are;

Grief counselling for the child. (I heard Winstons Wish can be good for resources- you've probably heard of them.)

Certainly remembering the sibling and maybe trying to include them more eg making a cake together on their birthday. - sort of trying to make the transition from sibling to no sibling a bit gentler...

Letting the child talk freely about what happened.

He would come up in conversation but almost always accompanied by my mum crying (understandably), so I think that meant I maybe didn't talk as much as I might have.

When I look back, my overriding feeling is of us all in separate worlds. My Dad had to keep working, my mum said she'd drop me at school then come home and collapse. We didn't have any other family nearby. I would say if you can, try to make as much family time as possible so your son feels safe in the middle of your family, however small or big it is.

I would say though it really didn't feel devastating to me as a child, it was all I knew and kind of thought that sort of thing happened to everyone.

It's the most devastating thing in the world that you are trying to navigate here, I wish you and your family a huge amount of love and strength.

Thank you so much for your kind words. I agree, I think things have moved on a bit since our generation as children, hopefully in a good way.

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Purplepistolpolly · 15/05/2022 08:43

I was much older at 16 when my younger sibling died. It’s the anniversary today weirdly. 24 long years.

I have found the same as you OP. It didn’t really start ‘affecting’ me until I was maybe mid 20s. It really hit me at 30 and I had a bit of a breakdown.
Now I have my own kids I find it incredibly difficult.

I have accepted it’s something that doesn’t go away. There is no ‘getting over it’. It’s something I just just live with and the feelings ebb and flow.
I find the run up to the anniversary incredibly difficult. I booked the day off work today and have had so many questions about what I'm doing with my day off and if I'm doing something nice. Not many people know about my sibling and I find it a real conversation killer if it comes up. It’s so awkward. So unless I’m actually asked if I have siblings I don’t really talk about it. It makes me feel as though people never really ‘know’ me and I find it quite emotionally exhausting.

I’ve had a fair bit of counselling and it’s helped at times but I think I expected a magical ‘fix’ and I’ve had to accept it doesn’t happen. Personally I think it’s so much harder when you lose someone so young. There will never be a time in my life when she shouldn’t have been here IYSWIM. As my younger sibling I should have outlived her and she should have been here to share life with.

She was always talked about in our household and we celebrated anniversaries and birthdays. Even so I found it hard to bring her up as it was upsetting for all of us and my parents handled it very differently. I’ve never wanted to add to their upset.

My overwhelming feeling has always been of loneliness. I have no over siblings and it feels like this huge hole in my life. I think I thought a family would fill this somehow but it doesn’t and hasn’t.

So I suppose all I’m saying is you feel how you feel and for me the best thing to do has been to just embrace it. It is what it is and it’s sad but also wonderful I had her for the short time I did. She’s shaped my life irrevocably and it’s ok to grieve for the person you might have been. Sometimes talking about it is a blessing but people generally just don’t understand.

I’ve read a lot of books on sibling grief and it is a very forgotten grief. I’ve lost count of the people I’ve told about my sisters death and their first reaction has been ‘oh your poor parents’ and I get it as there’s nothing worse than losing a child but I’m standing there feeling so invisible.

I hope you can find some peace. You are not alone 💐

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spinachmonster · 15/05/2022 08:52

Roseau18 · 15/05/2022 08:31

My baby brother died when I was a toddler. It was never spoken about. It caused huge feelings of guilt about being responsable for his death since like many toddlers with a new sibling I said I wished he wasn't there and then he was taken to hospital and never came home.
As a mother myself I can understand how terrible it must have been for my mother (he had a congenital heart problem which these days would not be fatal) but the secrets around it has had huge repercussions on my life.

@Roseau18
I'm terribly sorry to hear this.
It sounds really similar to my situation. My brother also had a congenital heart defect- pulmonary atresia which again, would probably have been survivable today.

I wish there was a way you could get past the guilt feelings as it is absolutely natural and normal that you didn't want him there- I think every single sibling in the world feels like that sometimes. It's just so tragic and unfortunate that your brother died and so made the whole completely natural scenario into something much more difficult.

I think not talking about it is really difficult. Have you had any support as an adult with this? Really feel for you so much and thanks so much for making me feel less alone. I've literally never met anyone that anything similar happened to. Did your parents have any other children? I really hope you are doing ok.

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spinachmonster · 15/05/2022 09:29

Just to add @Roseau18 I definitely had similar feelings towards my brother before he died, wishing he wasn't there. There is a series of photos my mum took of him, where I get into the frame and sit in front of him so she can't take the photo of him, only of me.

I hugely appreciate all your replies. Will work through them as soon as I can.

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effoffyouseeyounexttuesday · 15/05/2022 10:46

I'm sorry to read this OP.

I have a similar feeling experience but with an older sibling. The biggest impact for me was the massive crater it made in 'family' Rather than the loss it was the fact that family ceased to exist after this point in time. Changed and shaped everything.

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WhatHaveIFound · 15/05/2022 10:54

I was in primary school when my brother was stillborn. I can still remember my dad sobbing over his coffin. My parents never talked about him afterwards, in fact I only found out the name they'd given him a few years ago (40+ years on) but I do know home life was never the same again.

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effoffyouseeyounexttuesday · 15/05/2022 11:09

The not speaking of it seems like such a standard response.
@WhatHaveIFound I suspect it could be a generational thing as much as anything but so damaging

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User280905 · 15/05/2022 11:22

My cousin died young, so not a sibling.

Our family all talked about him all the time, we remaining cousins still celebrate his birthday every year.

This approach was driven by his mum, my auntie, but I think it was quite unusual at the time. Lots of people in our small village thought we shouldn't be "making such a fuss" and that my aunt should be "putting it behind her" and moving on. My aunt knew a lot of people thought she was doing the wrong thing but she was so sure in herself, she was absolutely amazing. He was her child and she was determined he would be remembered.9

He wasn't quite 2 when he died so on one hand we have lots of memories to share, on the other hand 2 years is hardly anything and every memory, however small, is precious.

Do you have many memories of your brother op? Even though he was very young. Do you have people you can share them with? Even your memory of photobombing his baby photos, that's such a normal , everyday sibling thing to do.

My kids don't know much about my cousin, although they know he was here. My remaining cousins make sure their kids know all about their uncle and they talk about him often.

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Roseau18 · 15/05/2022 11:55

@spinachmonster, it's the same for me. I have never met anyone that this has happened to.
I have been seeing a therapist which has enabled me to see where my excessive feelings of guilt about everything stem from and how much it has impacted my life. I still haven't processed it though. I know intellectually that I am not responsible for his death but deep down I still feel that I killed him. It feels as though there is still a child inside me that needs my parents to tell me that it was not my fault and that they forgive me.
My parents did go on to have another baby boy but my "surviving brother," as I had taken to calling him in my therapy sessions, had mental health problems throughout his life and died last year. For a long time, I felt guilty about his mental health problems too but fortunately before he died we were able to have a long conversation in which he told me explictly that he in no way held me responsible for how his life had turned out.

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blocker · 15/05/2022 12:13

I haven't lost a sibling, but I am the parent of three children, the youngest of whom died of cancer aged just 2 (26 months), when our other children were aged almost 4 and almost 6. It's still in the recent past (less than 2 years ago).

It's hard for us but we are also trying so hard for our other children so that they can grow up as"normal" as they can. Thank you for sharing some of your experiences and offering some ideas as to how we can remember him and help our other children.

They do see a play therapist etc which I think helps them. It's horrendous to go through and I worry about not being able to be a good parent anymore

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Roseau18 · 15/05/2022 12:28

I am so sorry for your loss Blocker.
I am sure a play therapist will help your children - understanding of young children's grief is much better today than it was when my baby brother died.
I think it is important to be honest with your remaining children, to allow them to talk about their dead sibling if and when they want to and to help them to understand that they are not responsible for your grief.
I think it is also important to allow them to talk about death in general and to avoid euphemisms like "lost" and "gone to a better place."

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thenewduchessoflapland · 15/05/2022 12:37

Yes;I was a few weeks from my 4th birthday when my baby brother died from meningitis aged 6 days.

I remember the very brief amount of time I spent with him.I'm very close to my 2 brothers who were born afterwards and they are close to my teenagers.

I always wonder my if my other brother didn't died.

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Heyduggee123 · 15/05/2022 12:42

My niece lost her sister (my other niece obviously) when she was 4. My niece that died was 15 months old. I’ve always thought my DN needed counselling as a couple of years later her parents separated so she’s had a lot to deal with. I also think it will affect us as she gets older 😞

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