Sibling Grief Recognizing and Serving  Children at Risk Cathy R. Blanford, MEd
Statistics Regarding Sibling Death <ul><ul><li>Just under 2 million children age 18 and under living in the United States ...
Impact of Sibling Death <ul><ul><li>Sibling death has a different impact on a child than the death of a parent or other si...
<ul><ul><li>Child’s age and sibling’s age </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Whether they were the younger or the older siblin...
<ul><ul><li>Long illness or quick, unexpected death </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A long illness may mean the child is mo...
<ul><ul><li>Degree to which child was involved or excluded. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A child who has been involved i...
Special Issues for Subsequents <ul><ul><li>Born into a family where there is a “ghost” How will the subsequent come to lea...
Disenfranchised Grief <ul><ul><li>Child’s own grief may be discounted due to the parents’ overwhelming grief </li></ul></u...
Helping These Children in Grief Groups <ul><ul><li>Preferable for children with sibling loss to be with other children who...
Value of the Story <ul><ul><li>The child will be able to obtain information they may not have had before. </li></ul></ul><...
Josh and Jessica: Twins and a Dresser <ul><ul><li>Twins were two years old when Justin died in their bedroom during naptim...
Opportunities to Deal with Anger <ul><ul><li>Legitimize anger—it’s okay to be mad! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t hu...
Guilt: That “ugly emotion” <ul><ul><li>We know that recognizing and dealing with guilt is always a part of the healthy gri...
Stories of Siblings Experiencing Feelings of Guilt <ul><ul><li>Sarah: Had always been jealous of attention her sick little...
Fear as a Reaction to Sibling’s Death <ul><ul><li>He died and he was just a kid—could I die too? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><l...
Stories of Children Experiencing Fear after Sibling’s Death <ul><ul><li>Jack: Watching his baby brother’s heart beating </...
Sense of an Ongoing Relationship with Sibling <ul><ul><li>Ben: Wanted to die, saw his brother’s spirit </li></ul></ul><ul>...
Remembering While Going On <ul><ul><li>It’s okay to remember the  whole  person. Your sibling was not a saint </li></ul></...
Helping Parents Help Their Kids <ul><ul><li>Deal with their own grief: If they’re okay, their kids will be okay. </li></ul...
Children and their Parents’ Reactions <ul><ul><li>Bill’s mom worries about him getting hurt. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sh...
Helping Parents Help their Children <ul><ul><li>Separate group for parents to help them deal with their own feelings. </li...
You can make a difference in the lives of these children, a life long difference!
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Sibling Grief

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304 a Blanford presentation

  1. 1. Sibling Grief Recognizing and Serving Children at Risk Cathy R. Blanford, MEd
  2. 2. Statistics Regarding Sibling Death <ul><ul><li>Just under 2 million children age 18 and under living in the United States have experienced the death of a sibling. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>26, 000 stillbirths in U.S. in a year </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>19,000 Newborn deaths </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Miscarriages as high as 25% of pregnancies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cose to half of these families have other children. </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Impact of Sibling Death <ul><ul><li>Sibling death has a different impact on a child than the death of a parent or other significant adult. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The child’s reaction will depend on many factors: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The age of the child </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The age of the sibling </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The relationship between the child & sibling </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Whether it was a long illness or a sudden death </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Whether or not the child was included in the process </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The parents reaction, availability </li></ul></ul></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><ul><li>Child’s age and sibling’s age </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Whether they were the younger or the older sibling and the years separating their ages will have an impact on the grieving process. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The relationship between the two was partially due to the age of each. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><ul><li>Long illness or quick, unexpected death </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A long illness may mean the child is more prepared for the death, but also means that attention has been devoted to sick sibling for a period of time </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>An unexpected death can be especially frightening, leaves child feeling vulnerable, family in deep state of shock, disbelief </li></ul></ul></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><ul><li>Degree to which child was involved or excluded. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A child who has been involved in the process of the sibling’s illness and/or dying will have a better opportunity to grieve, express feelings, gain information </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A child who is excluded from the process feels left out, does not understand what is happening, may feel less important in family </li></ul></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Special Issues for Subsequents <ul><ul><li>Born into a family where there is a “ghost” How will the subsequent come to learn of the sibling? When will he be told? Who will tell him? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How “present” is the absent child? Are there many pictures? Are there stories told? Are there regular memorials? What happens on holidays? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Replacement child: Would I have been born if s/he had not died? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Attachment issues </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Overprotectiveness of Parents </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Disenfranchised Grief <ul><ul><li>Child’s own grief may be discounted due to the parents’ overwhelming grief </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Child may not be included in the family’s grieving process. </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Helping These Children in Grief Groups <ul><ul><li>Preferable for children with sibling loss to be with other children who have also experienced the death of a sibling. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mixed groups work but it is better if there is at least one other child whose sibling died. </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Value of the Story <ul><ul><li>The child will be able to obtain information they may not have had before. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>This will help to clear up misconceptions. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The child’s story will give the parents an opportunity to see how their child is thinking about what happened. </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Josh and Jessica: Twins and a Dresser <ul><ul><li>Twins were two years old when Justin died in their bedroom during naptime. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Jessica came to us at age 4 without a story. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We helped her obtain information about what happened. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>She left the group with her own story in which she was the heroine. </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Opportunities to Deal with Anger <ul><ul><li>Legitimize anger—it’s okay to be mad! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t hurt yourself. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t hurt anyone else. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t break anything important. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Give them tools for getting the anger out. </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Guilt: That “ugly emotion” <ul><ul><li>We know that recognizing and dealing with guilt is always a part of the healthy grieving process. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Much more complicated when it is a sibling, due to the natural process of sibling rivalry. </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Stories of Siblings Experiencing Feelings of Guilt <ul><ul><li>Sarah: Had always been jealous of attention her sick little sister received </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Jerry: Felt since he was the big brother he should have been able to prevent the accident </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Meghan: Couldn’t remember that she had been in the room </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Joe: Was always afraid of hurting his little sister. </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Fear as a Reaction to Sibling’s Death <ul><ul><li>He died and he was just a kid—could I die too? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Not just old people die. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sometimes I didn’t want him around and he died—did I make that happen? </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Stories of Children Experiencing Fear after Sibling’s Death <ul><ul><li>Jack: Watching his baby brother’s heart beating </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Janet: “Then I died” </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Sense of an Ongoing Relationship with Sibling <ul><ul><li>Ben: Wanted to die, saw his brother’s spirit </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Jack: Singing to his baby brother </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Remembering While Going On <ul><ul><li>It’s okay to remember the whole person. Your sibling was not a saint </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You are special too! (Closing circle, say each child’s name three times!) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ok to go on living, be happy! </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Helping Parents Help Their Kids <ul><ul><li>Deal with their own grief: If they’re okay, their kids will be okay. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Keep pictures, stories, memorializing to a healthy minimum. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Understand their children’s reactions (books are helpful here) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tendency to be overprotective can be harmful </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Not the child’ job to care for the parent </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Children and their Parents’ Reactions <ul><ul><li>Bill’s mom worries about him getting hurt. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sherry was jealous of attention mom gave her little sister. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ray worried about making mom feel better. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sarah didn’t get enough of mom’s time. </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Helping Parents Help their Children <ul><ul><li>Separate group for parents to help them deal with their own feelings. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tell parents what children are doing, how they can connect with their feelings. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Closing Ceremony: Tell your children something really special about themselves </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. You can make a difference in the lives of these children, a life long difference!

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