To a child, losing a parent can impact each and every single area of life. From issues of self esteem, to guilt, to gender identity, parental death causes so many different emotions and responses. Parental death can even impact the way that siblings relate to one another. While it is true that sometimes parental death may actually cause siblings to have an emotional bond that may not have been there before, parental death can also cause there to be a great wedge of sibling rivalry between siblings.
In some ways, it is comforting to know that siblings who have experienced parental death are not statistically any more likely to experience sibling rivalry than siblings who have not experienced parental death. On the other hand, it is true that, because the siblings are very likely going to be in a single-parent household, it may be that sibling rivalry is intensified, or that it occurs more frequently. This is a challenge especially to the single parent, who has not only lost a spouse but may now find that their children are constantly at odds with one another.
A single parent has her work cut out for her in terms of sibling rivalry. The biggest challenge is often to avoid being caught in the middle of things, or to avoid taking sides or playing favorites between the children. While fairness is always important for parents, it may be no more important than it is for the single parent.
In many cases, the best thing for a family who has experienced parental death is some family counseling or family therapy. A therapist can help a family to talk about the issues that concern them in a safe, non-threatening environment. In cases where counseling or therapy is not an option, a single parent might consider enlisting outside help of some other sort, such as that of a grandparent, or of a family friend.
Ultimately, parental death is a true tragedy. However, it does not mean that siblings have to wind up fighting with one another. With hard work, families can achieve a relative degree of harmony, even in the face of parental death.