In society, we don’t really acknowledge or recognise the importance of the sibling relationship, or the loss that occurs. It’s why sibling grief is described as “disenfranchised grief” because it can feel subordinate to other people’s grief.
“Effectively, disenfranchised grief means any grief or loss that doesn’t get recognised in the way grief normally would, say, if you lose your partner, or a child. It has this significance to you, but the outer world doesn’t recognise it so much,” explains BACP registered integrative therapist Jennifer Park.
“If siblings are older, it’s almost, ‘oh well, it’s the natural flow of life’, and when they’re younger, the emphasis might go to the parents or the sibling’s family and the grieving sibling takes on the role of helping out, making sure other people are okay, so their own grief gets lost in that.
“It can feel like they can’t talk about their own grief, or shouldn’t, or don’t have a right to, but grief is how we cry for the people we lose, and if grief is unacknowledged, or not processed, it can lead to a sense of isolation, disconnection, and loneliness.”
Park said it is essential to talk to a therapist, trusted friend or support group to help process emotions, memories and experiences.
“That can be really helpful because it allows you to be with others who have experienced something similar to you and make your feelings more relevant and real.”