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According to the New York Times, “when children lose siblings, they face an increased risk of death.” A shocking 5 to 8 percent of children in the United States experience the loss of a sibling. JAMA pediatrics conducted a longitudinal study following children in both Denmark and Sweden from 1973 to 2009. Over 55,000 of the children lost a sibling before they turned 18. During the thirty-six-year study, mortality risk increased by 71 percent for participants who experienced the death of a sibling. It seems that coping with the loss of a sibling can be more than some children can bear, and the impact can endure for many years. So, it’s necessary to take some precautions and find healthy ways to deal with the loss of loved ones. But many people are so stricken with grief they don’t know where to begin. When faced with the despair of losing a sibling, you may wonder, ‘what are some healthy ways to cope with grief after the death of a sibling?’
What Should you Expect?
There are many unpleasant feelings surrounding the loss of a loved one, although you may feel numb from the offset. In 1969 psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross suggested that there were five stages of grief, which people must go through to accept the death of a loved one.
These stand to be what most people feel when adjusting to such as loss. These include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But it is important to know that you may not experience these stages in any particular order, and you may feel more than one at a time.
Experiencing these stages as well as shock, confusion, sadness, despair and even guilt are normal. What’s most important is to learn healthy strategies to cope with the loss.
What Are Some Healthy Ways to Cope?
The biggest thing you can do after the death of a sibling is to utilize your support system. This can be anyone from a group of friends to family members. But during this time, you need to have people in your life that you can lean on for additional support. Surrounding yourself with caring people can be an emotional lifesaver. You may want to also consider going to a support group for people who have experienced loss or even speak to a clinical psychologist or counselor. They can provide some insight that you wouldn’t think of if you tried to go at it alone.
Take Care of Yourself
The period after a loss can be such an overwhelming time that you may feel like not eating, sleeping or taking care of yourself as you usually would. Pay special attention to your diet and exercise as these are tools that can help pull you out of the depths of grief. There are a few healthy strategies you might want to try including:
- Taking a yoga class can be very restorative on your body and spirit. In times of grief we may feel like staying in bed or not moving our bodies the way we should. Yoga helps you reconnect with your body and teaches you how to use your breath in a way that reduces the stress and depression associated with loss.
- Eating a clean diet with a lot of fruits and vegetables can help us to naturally feel a lot better at a time when maybe we just want to veg out and eat unhealthy foods, or nothing at all.
- Alternative medicines and therapies can be a good way to take care of our bodies. Research has shown that treatments like biofeedback and acupuncture can help reduce the tension and stress associated with loss. A recent survey revealed that 59% of people consider alternative treatments for pain, both mental and physical. So, if standard practices aren’t working, you’re not alone.
Regardless of what you do after the death of a sibling, know that you are not alone. Turn to old friends and family, utilize just a few of these tips and strategies, and know that you will begin to feel better with time.
About the Author
Alexis Schaffer received her undergraduate degree in psychology and is a registered nurse. In her free time, she teaches yoga and writes for various online publications. She’s also the proud dog mom of a beagle named Dobby.