The Death of a Sibling Changes Everything


There is a saying that when a parent dies, you lose the past. When a child dies, you lose the future. When a sibling dies, you lose a piece of the past and the future.

The death of a brother or sister profoundly changes life as you know it. At Krause Funeral Homes, our caring team understands this heartbreak both personally and professionally. Many times over the years, as we’ve sat down with Milwaukee families to plan a funeral, we hear comments like this from the siblings of the person who died:

“My sister is the only person who has been there my entire life. She knows me inside and out. I can’t believe she’s gone.” 

“Why him and not me? I feel so guilty that I’m sitting here right now, alive and healthy.”

“My brother’s wife and kids should be the ones making the decisions about his funeral. Not me.”

 It’s no wonder siblings are often referred to as the “forgotten mourners.” The decisions about a visitation, funeral service, and burial are usually made by parents if their child was younger and by a surviving spouse and children if the person who died was older. Often, brothers and sisters are left out of the mix altogether. This creates another level of grief, as siblings may not be part of the funeral planning process, which is a valuable step in the healing process.

You lose part of your past . . .

Whether you had a close relationship with your sibling or it could have been better, the bond that is formed in childhood is like no other. It’s the shared memories, the inside jokes, the “you had to be there” stories that stand the test of time. A sibling’s death cuts off that connection to the past. Even if you weren’t in touch with your brother or sister on a daily basis, the relationship has been a constant in your life.

Their death may also shift the family dynamic, as you may now be the only living child or your place in the birth order changes. Often, a sibling death deeply affects the parent/child relationship – no matter your and your parents’ ages. This new role, when paired with the other complexities of grief, is a lot to make sense of.

You lose part of your future . . .

When a brother or sister dies, special occasions will never be the same. Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries – these shared events that add so much joy to life are forever changed. It’s easy to let your mind go to the “if onlys” and dwell on what could have or should have been. Friends may have trouble understanding what you’re going through. They may tell you it’s time to move on, to accept the loss – particularly if you haven’t been close to your sibling over the years.

But remember this: That missing piece of your life will always exist. You may imagine how your relationship with your sibling might have improved in years ahead. You might picture the two of you side by side as you grew older. You may even look at your own life and envision how your death will affect your family. Keep in mind that you do not have to minimize or leave behind the connection you had to heal and move forward in a healthy way.

Finding support in the months ahead.

We’ve heard from many Milwaukeeans who say they felt loved and supported in the days following their sibling’s death, but that support waned as time went on. Friends, neighbors, and coworkers may grow weary or uncomfortable hearing about the loss. If they didn’t know the person who died, it could be even more difficult to relate.

Grief can be a lifelong journey and we want you to know that our Krause Funeral Homes team is here for you. Professional counseling and support groups are a good place to start. We can connect you with aftercare resources in Milwaukee, so contact us anytime for help. Our website also offers many resources to help on the road to healing, including Interactive Grief Support and other resources for the grief journey.

We are available 24/7 if you need support or a listening ear. After all, we understand the complexities of this particular loss – and want to help you any way we can.

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