How can teens deal with the grief of losing a brother or sister?

Two teenage murders rocked the Cape Town community over the past weeks. Siblings in particular often fall through the cracks when it comes to dealing with the grief n a family of such an enormous loss. Lesley Shroeder is a bereavement counsellor. She talks to John Maytham about helping these teens get through an overwhelmingly difficult time.

The siblings of brothers and sisters who die are sometimes called 'the forgotten grievers' because in the midst of the horrific situation it is the parents who are the main focus.

Lesley herself lost a son ten years ago through a drowning and she saw first hand how it effected her own living children. She chose to specialise in this field and has done extensive in depth research on teenagers in Cape Town whop have lost siblings.

The parents' grief is so visible and the attention is on the parents, so teenagers feel neglected and ignored on the one hand. But because of their age, they don't always welcome attention. So it is a bit of a dilemma.

Lesley Shroeder, bereavement counsellor.

The over-riding thing is that parents are so overwhelmed in early weeks, that it is difficult to give the surviving children the attention they need.

Lesley Shroeder, bereavement counsellor.

In her research she did find some commonalities among teens who had lost siblings.

The main issue is the sense of disruption, a terrible uncertainty and fear of the future.

There is also a tremendous amount of trauma in the form of vivid nightmares and flashbacks.

But she found most needed to stay connected to their lost sibling in some way.

Shroeder says many teens say they have been visited by their lost siblings in dreams in a positive way.

There is a general process of moving forwards for these teens and becoming the best person they could be, almost living for two.

Lesley Shroeder, bereavement counsellor.

She says there is a danger on the one hand of teens doing self-harm and abusing substances - but others become over-controlling of their lives too.

She says the one overwhelming common feature in most teens she interviewed was a dramatic weight gain or loss after the tragedy.

She says the best advice is to be kind to each other and accept it is a life long process of healing.

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