Siblings are often called, “The Forgotten Mourners.”
When a baby or child dies, life as we know it turns upside down and families struggle to find ways of moving through their new life crisis. The focus of grief quickly turns to nurturing and helping the parents; often times leaving the siblings with a sense of being left behind or forgotten.
The following age groups may be used as a guide to the different developmental stages of sibling loss.
SCHOOL AGED CHILDREN
Do not understand that death is final. May think that they will see the person again or that the person can come back to life. May think it was their fault that the person died.
May ask lots of questions about how the person died and about what death means. May display distress and sadness in ways that are not always clear, like being irritable and easily angered. May avoid spending time with others. May have physical complaints (headaches, stomachaches). May have trouble sleeping. May have problems at school. May have no reaction at all.May dream of events related to the death or war. May want to call home during the school day. May reject old friends and seek new friends who have experienced a similar loss.
May have similar grief reactions to those of school-age children when at home, with friends, and at school. May withdraw, become sad, or lose interest in activities. May act out, have trouble in school, or engage in risky behavior. May feel guilt and shame related to the death. May worry about the future. May hide their true feelings.