I had another experience in the old famous pediatric intensive care that has brought home to me my passion for including the siblings in the end of life issues a family deals with.
We had an absolutely adorable seven year old tragically hit by a car and was left terminally brain injured. The accident happened quickly and in front of the older brother.
However, as his life ebbed away in the few hours he was our patient, the brother was left to deal with the incident on his own. The parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles all so overwhelmed with sorrow, walked in and out of the room leaning on each other. Each and every time the brother entered or left the room, he was crying and alone. Never once did I witness family members comforting or holding or even seeming to notice the teen boy in the background.
I am not judging, and I don't mean to assume that no one ever spoke to the young man when I was not around. I can only speak for what I saw. And what I saw was an awkward teen sobbing his heart out, trying to hide his face in his baggy hoody away from the eyes of the staff.
I implore any parent or grandparent going through similar tragic circumstances to reach out to the siblings, especially the awkward teen siblings whose hearts are also broken. When possible, allow them to be a part of decisions and discussions. Recognize their pain, and understand it runs as deep as yours. Understand that they may not express it in the same way we would, and that they may pull away and retreat. Reach for them, love them, and let them know they are still an important part of the family unit. It is important to their grieving and will help you all hang on.