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Promoting Resilience in Bereaved Children

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When a Sister Dies


Grieving the loss of a sibling as a family 

 When A Sister Dies was designed for use with pre-school aged children, between three and five years of age, who have experienced the death of their sister suddenly and unexpectedly. This resource may also be used to speak with your child about their sister who came before them. 


The death of your child suddenly and unexpectedly impacts your whole family, including your other child or children. The aim of this resource is to support the family in acknolwedging your child's grief and learning to mourn and cope together. 


Your child's understanding of death will depend on their developmental level, as well as their own unique personality and temperament. Pre-school children may think that death is temporary or reversible, or that the deceased is just living somewhere different and can return. Their thoughts are literal and concrete, or about what they can see or touch, because they cannot yet think abstractly. Pre-school children have vivid imaginations and may use magical thinking to make sense of death. Some children as young as three may ask questions about death; other children may seem unaffected. No matter their understanding of death or what their grief looks like, children need to be acknowledged and loved as they grieve.  


This book uses simple, honest, and straightforward language to help you discuss with your child the sensitive and painful topic of their sibling's death. It was designed as a resource to support the family as you greive the loss of a beloved member of your family together. 

A note for Parents

awkward wording..

add specific ages/population (0-3) ?? 

awkward wording

A Child's Grief


 Losing a sister is a significant loss that a child will continue to try and make sense of as they grow and mature. Children need us to be mindful of the important role regrieving plays in development. It is our responsibility to show the same compassion and authenticity throughout this unpredictable grief process.


Grief is an on going process. For pre-school aged children, grief can be temporarily interrupted by normal feelings only to be replaced again by grief a short time later. There is no order to grief, no specific stages that a child will go to. 


Children, similar to adults, can grieve for years. Their grief may look different because they grieve in spurts. They may regrieve the loss of their sister as their cognitive capacity matures and their development progresses. 


Ignoring a child’s grief or pretending everything is okay could jeopardize a child’s ability to develop coping skills and form trusting relationships as they grow older. This is why we must recognize and acknowledge children’s grief behaviors, help them as they try to make sense of their new reality, and support them as they go on being kids. 


too insensitive? 

include? side by side "A note to parents" pages? preface/how to use this book.. if including "activity" or "interaction" buttons.. explain that here, too. 

What does dead mean? 

Parent note: Once death is explained physically, it's okay to add spiritual or religious beliefs. Explaining death in a simple and straightforward manner first helps children grasp this understanding before making sense of abstract concepts of spiritual beliefs. 

Dead means that your sister is no longer alive.

Her body stopped working.

It is different than sleeping because she cannot wake up. 

She cannot breathe, or eat, or cry, or laugh. 

We can no longer see her or play with her. 


We will always remember her.

We will always love her. 

She will always be your sister. 


Activity/Interaction piece?

Seems insensitive.. another way to reword?? 

Why did she die? 

Activity/Interaction piece?

No one knows exactly why she died. 


Her death does not mean you will die.

It does not mean that I will die.

No one can promise that they won’t die.

We take care of ourselves so we can be healthy and strong together for a long time.


It was nobody's fault. No one is to blame. 


We will always miss your sister because she was a part of our lives.

We will always be a family. 


We will always remember her.

We will always love her. 

She will always be your sister. 


"I don't know why she died." instead? Leave out? how to answer this question when parents do not know either.. 

How do you feel?

We will grieve the death of your sister.

Grieving means we feel sometimes painful feelings, like sadness, or anger. This is how we cope with death.


You may feel sad because you really miss her. 

I feel sad sometimes, too.


You may feel mad because she died and left us.

I feel mad sometimes, too.  


These feelings don't feel good.

But being sad or mad is not bad or wrong.

It is how we grieve the death of your sister.


It’s okay to express or show your feelings. 

You will see me express or show my feelings sometimes, too.

This is normal and how we show our grief. 


Activity/Interaction: Ask your child to show you what sad/mad looks like. or ask your child to draw what sad/mad looks like.?? 

We feel grief= grief can be many different or mixed feelings that we feel after someone dies.  (noun better than verb usage? mix of both?)

Side by side pages? or separate this and next page into different pages.. too much content on one page? 

How do you feel?

Sometimes when we remember your sister we will feel happy and smile.

It’s okay to giggle and be silly, too.


We might cry because we really miss your sister.

It’s okay to cry sometimes. 


You may feel scared that you might die. 

Do not worry, I am here and I love you. 


You may not like that so many things are changing. Change is hard.

But I am still here and I love you.


We will get through this together. We will always be a family. 


We don’t want to hide our feelings.

Hiding our feelings is not healthy.


The bad feelings do not last forever. Grief does not last forever.  (??)

Activity/Interaction: Ask your child to draw a happy picture. Ask what they may be worried about... etc 

awkward wording.. another way to get this idea across? 

Side by side pages? or separate this and previous page into different pages.. too much content on one page? 

Saying Good-bye

Parent note: it is a personal decision whether or not to include your child in the commemoration rituals. Keep in mind a child’s age and their understanding of death and the rituals to take place. Circumstances are different and sometimes it is worthwhile to seek assistance in trying to decide.

Do not include this part? Include the part from trozzi’s book elsewhere?? 


To say good-bye, we will commemorate your sister.

This means we will honor her life and death and treasure her memory.  


We are celebrating her life.

We will always miss your sister because she was a part of our lives.

We will always love her.

We will always remember her.

We will never forget her.

She will always be your sister.




Activity/interaction piece: Ask your child: how would you like to commemorate your sister? how would you like to say good-bye? 

Commemorate? discard this word.. just use remember.. ?? don't really give examples of how to say goodbye.. trying to avoid drawing in funerals/burials/etc.. 

disregard this completely? cannot emcompass this topic in this small resource really.. would have to be mindful of so many cultures etc. .

Ways to Remember Her

Activity/interaction: Help your child think of qualities they have in common with their sister: she had blue eyes just like you. She used to giggle when I tickled her stomach, just like you do. She did not like to take naps, just like you.

How would you like to remember your sister?


We can:

Share stories.

Look at photos.

Remember her birthday.

Cuddle with her stuffed animals.

Wrap up in her blankets.

Plant flowers.

Release balloons in the sky.

Draw or color pictures.


Don’t be afraid to speak your sister’s name. It may be painful to hear at first, but she brought us such joy that we want to remember her.

liked this idea but feels awkward in this place.. move? reword? 

different than other pages in that this is fully activity/interaction, asks question right away.. format here important how to incorporate in the rest of the book for good flow..? 

NEED to put a piece in the preface about how not everything in this book will be applicable> is this obvious? some children will not have memories at all of their sibling, espeically if she came before.. etc.. thinking about all possibilities.. how to incorporate this page without being insensitive .. how to write this?? 


general/ specific problem again. 

Need a final last page: repeat that wording (We will always love her. We will always remember her. She will always be your sister..) with some kind of inspirational hope message? 


What do to about activity/interaction pieces? 


Worthwhile to have parent notes?.. too much information? get rid of it??