Why am I taking my brother's death harder than the rest of the family?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My brother died about two weeks ago and I think I'm taking it harder than everyone in my family. What can I do?

Expert Answer

Martha Clark Scala has been a psychotherapist in private practice since 1992, with offices in Palo Alto and San Francisco, California. She regularly writes about grief and loss, the necessity of self-care, and substance abuse. Her e-newsletter, "Out on a Limb," is available to subscribers through her website.

Every person's response to a loss is as unique as an individual thumbprint. For example, grief comes crashing down on some folks right after the person dies while for others, it might be two weeks, two months, two years later, or even never, before they have an acute reaction of grief.

If you happen to be one of a number of siblings grieving your brother, it is not unusual for each of you to react differently, depending on such factors as:

  • how close you were in age, or birth order
  • how much time you spent sharing a household together
  • how much time you spent together in your childhood or adulthood
  • how much affinity you had with one another as siblings, and
  • how much conflict you went through together, be it with each other or in the family.

 If you are having a particularly hard time with the loss of your brother, please feel no pressure to do your grieving process like others in your family. If there is pressure on you, whether subtle or overt, to grieve this loss less intensely, you may need to go outside of your family system for support or counsel. For help with this, check out The Compassionate Friends, particularly the link for Sibling Resources.

If you are looking for a book specifically addressing sibling loss, know that the search engines in most bookstores are sophisticated enough to find books tailored to your needs if you type in "sibling loss" in the Find/Search box.

A sibling loss support group, if available in your community, might be very soothing at this time. Or you could consider seeking one-on-one support from a psychotherapist or pastoral counselor.  

Above all, do your best to allow your feelings to surface despite what others are doing or not doing with their grief.