Saying goodbye to my brother or sister

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How do you possibly say goodbye to your sister or brother?? Saying what you want to say and letting them know what they mean to you doesn’t mean you are admitting defeat or ready to let go.


You don’t have to think of it as ‘saying goodbye’, but more like saying ‘you matter to me’.


Tips from other young people who’ve been through this 

  • Don’t wait and don’t hold back. You don’t know when the last minute will be. In lots of different ways, a little bit at a time, let your sibling know how you feel…

  • Thank you for… / I’m sorry that… / I forgive you for… / What I’ll miss most is… / I’m proud of you for… If it’s hard to say it, write them a letter, an email, a card, a story or a poem. Draw a picture, make a collage, find songs that say it for you. You might feel embarrassed. It might be a bit uncomfortable. It will probably make you both cry. You just might be glad later that you did.

  • Just hang out together. If you can, make the most of the time you have with your sister or brother, you will probably really cherish this time. Try to think of things you can still do together. You might be able to play a board game, watch a movie, or read the paper or a book to them.

  • Make some one-on-one time. There might be lots of people around helping and wanting to spend time with your sister or brother. But it’s okay to demand a bit of alone time with them. You will value this time in the future.

  • Throw a farewell party? If it’s their style, and if they feel up to it, you could think about having a ‘living funeral’ – where the guest of honour gets to be there. Get their family and friends around and have a party, say nice things, eat some food, drink some drink and crank up the iPod.

Create memories and stories

The memories and stories you have about your brother or sister are really precious. Looking back in the future, you’ll probably find it’s the little details you remember about your sibling that mean the most to you. There’s no such thing as too much information. You could ask them:

  • What are your dreams?

  • What are your hopes for me?

  • What do you remember about when we were kids?

  • What did you want to be when you grew up?

  • What is your favourite memory?

  • What is your favourite place?

Don’t trust your brain. Get this stuff down onto paper or into the computer.

Other ways to collect some memories

  •  Put together a photo album. Write little captions about what you remember about each picture.

  • Make a video or voice recording of stories and shared memories.

  • Make a memory box or scrapbook. Collect things that are special to your sibling and remind you of them – like photos, concert tickets, cards, clothes or jewellery.

  • Make a CD or playlist of their favourite songs.

  • Make a cookbook of their favourite recipes.

  • Let them live on, online. Create a website and put up photos, videos, stories, messages.

There are lots of ideas for collecting memories in Canteen’s free book ‘Now what? When your sibling’s cancer can’t be cured’ which you can download or order here.

Don't try to do it alone

This is a really tough time, and you may feel completely alone and unsure about what to do next. It can help to talk to other young people who have lost their sister or brother to cancer and find out what they did, or would have done differently. Log in to the Canteen Community. Our counsellors can give you some advice for getting through this too.

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You're not alone
Chat with people who get you. Get time out at our fun events. Talk to a counsellor (it’s free!).