These tips for coping with grief and depression are inspired by a reader who asked, “How do I help my parents grieve the loss of their child, who was my brother?” He wants to help his parents cope with grief and depression. He recently lost his sibling to an illness; his parents are having a hard time dealing with their grief.
Here’s part of his question:
“I read 5 Ways to Help a Grieving Friend…and I would really like to help my mom and need some help. I don’t know what to do…he was my only brother, and usually we were fighting, and I regret all the things I said and the things I didn’t say. Please give me some advice so I can help my mom feel better.”
Below are the suggestions I gave him for helping his parents survive a child’s death and cope with death and depression, which may apply to many adults grieving the loss of a sibling. For more information for bereaved children and parents, click I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One.
Surviving a Child’s Death – Coping With Grief and Depression
Remember that you can’t erase grief or the mourning process. You can’t make your mom or dad happy or change how they’re dealing with their loss. This may be hard to hear, but your parents will be in a lot of pain for a long time. You have to let them grieve their loss in their own way, and accept that they’re facing the worst thing a parent can face: the death of a child. Read Mourning a Lost Child for some insight into how mothers feel after a death – go to the comments section for words from mothers who are mourning. This may help you understand how your bereaved parents feel, and may also give you ideas about how to help them.
Talk to a grief counselor, or join a grief support group. After the shock has worn off a little and the memorial service or celebration of life is over, think about joining a grief support group or talking to a grief counselor. One of the best ways to cope with grief and depression because of loss is to find people who have experienced the same thing.
Gather information about grief and bereavement. Read books about families who have lost siblings and children, such as the book above. Go to your library and bookstore (or visit Amazon), and look for books that “speak” to you. There are many books about coping with death and depression; you need to find a few that you can relate to. Find a couple of books for your parents, too, about grieving the loss of a child.
Be helpful in practical ways. Make your parents’ lives easier in practical ways: cooking, doing the laundry, cleaning, driving them around, and giving them lots of hugs (especially your mom!). Ask what you can do to help them. As far as them not eating (this reader’s parents haven’t been eating since they lost their son); that can be part of the grieving process. They’ll eat again. It’s just hard for them to feed their bodies when their hearts are breaking. They’re mourning; it’s a very painful but normal process. It’s healthy for them to express their grief, perhaps by withdrawing, crying, or sleeping a lot.
Manage your feelings of guilt for moving on. When you eat, laugh, go back to work or school, or otherwise get on with your life, try not to feel guilty. It’s hard to believe now, but you will start to heal and move past this loss…you will laugh again, feel good again, and enjoy life again. You have to let yourself – and your parents – go through the process of coping with death and depression without trying to change the way you feel. You’ll eventually come out on the other side. It may be especially difficult over the holidays; read 5 Tips for Dealing With Grief During the Holidays.
Believe that you did the best you could as a sibling. You were the best brother or sister you could be. You may have fought and aggravated the heck out of each other, but that’s normal for siblings! You fought because that’s what siblings do! Don’t replay the “if only” scenarios…because you can only see clearly when you’re looking back in time. Remember what you did right with your brother or sister; focus on the times that you and your brother connected. Don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect.
Express your feelings of grief and depression. It can be healthy and good to look for answers on the Internet. It’s very important to share how you feel and ask for help and support. Looking outward for answers – such as through online grief support groups or forums – as well as inward can help you cope with death.
Life will never be the same after the loss of a sibling. You’ll never be the same, and neither will your parents. The death of a brother or sister will change you forever – but it doesn’t have to mean the end of your happiness or your life as you know it! There is room in your life for sadness and loss, as well as happiness and joy. Right now, you’re going through the dark sadness…and one day, you will feel good again.
For more tips on helping bereaved children and parents cope, read 5 Ways to Help a Grieving Friend Deal With Death.
You may also find Letting Go of Someone You Love helpful.
If you have any questions or thoughts about surviving a child’s death, please comment below…
I'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello below - I can't give relationship advice, but writing can bring you clarity and insight.