How Postpartum Depression Affects Siblings
It is well known that postpartum depression, or depression of any kind, can dramatically affect the person’s family as well. As a family, health challenges present a struggle for the entire unit and often it can become overwhelming for the other family members. This includes siblings who may find it difficult to cope when their sister is suffering from postpartum depression.
Often a relationship with a sibling is the longest relationship someone has during the course of their lifetime. The longevity of a relationship and the sharing of childhood experiences can make it difficult for siblings when one is affected by a health condition such as postpartum depression.
Many factors can determine how postpartum depression can affect siblings. If siblings live nearby, spend lots of time together or generally remain close, it can be devastating to know that your sister is suffering.
Additionally, because postpartum depression is debilitating for the one who is affected, household responsibilities, child care or anything else that requires attention often falls on family members to look after, including siblings.
Though it can be challenging for families when a loved one is suffering from postpartum depression, there are some specific ways for siblings to provide support and seek the support they need as well.
Postpartum Depression Support for Siblings
If your sibling is suffering from postpartum depression, it can provide a lot of confusion, concern and even suffering of your own during this time. But understanding the resources that are available and educating yourself about postpartum depression are important aspects of being able to provide support as your sister recovers from this condition.
Postpartum Depression Education
By proactively seeking education about postpartum depression and learning about the symptoms, risk factors, treatments and recovery process you can feel better prepared to support your sister.
In learning about postpartum depression you can better understand how this condition develops and which symptoms are common among women suffering from this mental disorder. Knowing what to expect can help alleviate some of the uncertainty that comes when a loved one is facing emotional turbulence.
Knowing that postpartum depression is not permanent and that treatment can help achieve recovery can also allow family members to remain supportive and encouraging even when the woman is faced with despair.
A common challenge that family members, including siblings, face when their loved one is suffering from postpartum depression is not knowing how to properly offer support. It’s normal for siblings to feel helpless or as though they don’t know what to do even though they want desperately to help.
While all cases of postpartum depression are different and affect women differently, there are some specific ways you can best provide support for your sister as she recovers.
Firstly, it’s important to let her know that you are supporting her as she seeks treatment. The only way to fully manage and control symptoms is to actively seek specialized treatment through a combination of medication and/or therapy. By supporting her efforts to seek treatment you can help her to feel more confident in the steps she is taking toward recovery.
Secondly, support can also come in the form of filling in around the house as she may likely go through a period of feeling unmotivated to do anything. By removing the burden of household chores, errands or other tasks you can alleviate additional stress and anxiety she may feel.
Finally, support can simply come in the form of continued positive reinforcement and encouragement. Suffering from postpartum depression can cause women to feel hopeless and as though her symptoms may never end. But as her sibling, you can provide support by reminding her that postpartum depression does eventually end and that she is taking the correct steps to manage symptoms and heal herself.
As an immediate family member, siblings often suffer in silence as they too take on the struggles of their sister’s condition. Many times, family members don’t get the support that they need because they are focused on supporting and caring for their sister. During this time, they may neglect their own needs and they may exhibit their own symptoms of depression or anxiety.
If this is the case, it’s important to seek your own support resources. Whether it’s through therapy or the support of other family members and friends, taking care of your own health is vital in being able to provide your sister with continued support. If you are struggling then you may not be able to continue to offer the same level of support that you’d like.
Self-Help for Siblings
As part of seeking support for yourself in order to support your sister, it’s important to have deliberate self-care practices in place. Self-care and prioritizing your health are important if you are struggling to understand and support your sister’s condition.
Healthy self-care practices for siblings include:
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Ensuring you are getting enough exercise
- Getting enough rest and staying hydrated
Many family members also take on stress as someone close to them is going through a health challenge. This is why it’s important to implement stress-management practices such as:
- Meditation and mindfulness
- Deep breathing and stretching
- Nature walks and spending time outdoors
It’s possible for family members to add to their own stress by wanting to be there for the mother as much as possible. But this can eventually lead to burnout and exhaustion.
Instead, work with your sister’s partner or other family members to come up with a schedule for visiting if needed. This can help to prevent overwhelming the new mother and can allow other family members to get the break they need as well.