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Losing a loved one is difficult in any situation, but can be especially hard when the deceased is a brother or sister. Age is not a factor. The loss is painful at any age. And when the death is due to suicide or a military sibling killed in action, that loss is especially painful, because you are totally unprepared to face the news. The end of life is suddenly a “reality”. A responsible young adult or family member may suffer feelings of anxiety, wondering how their own families would manage without them.

The responsibility of funeral arrangements can sometimes fall on a surviving sibling. We have experience helping them face decisions under pressure such as burial or cremation, organ donation, and details of the service in general. It is of course welcome help, but we all must be sensitive to the special kind of grief that is being experienced at the time. Some people refer to them as “forgotten mourners”. Be sensitive to this.

It is also acceptable to let them know that it is “ok to grieve.” There are also support groups available to help siblings know that they are not alone. The loss of someone you grew up with is special and unique indeed, even when loss comes later in life. An older sibling is still a sibling, with memories of the good times of childhood still vivid.

In a video posted on a blog, actor Billy Bob Thornton shares a story of the loss of his two-years-younger brother. He says, “I have never trusted happiness since,” but continues to explain that he dedicates his suffering in his art as a way of remembering his brother. We each remember and respect the loss of a sibling in our own personal way.

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