Date of Conferral
Dr. Susan Marcus
Up to 90% of adolescents in the U.S. experience a loss of a family member or friend. However, prior research on loss of a family member has focused predominantly on the adult experience (e.g., loss of a spouse), parental bereavement (loss of a child), or grief counseling as an intervention for dealing with loss. Little is known about the sibling loss experience, particularly from the point of view of the surviving sibling who suffered the loss when they were young. Thus, the purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the narratives of young adults who experienced the loss of a sibling during adolescence, and to understand the role of family, friends, and resources. This research utilized three theoretical models: Erik Erickson's theory of Psychosocial Development, Murray Bowen's theory of Family Systems, and Theresa Rando's 6 R's theory of loss. Eight participants (all female) between 18 and 30 years who lost a sibling between 13 and 18 years were invited through posting in 4 closed sibling loss groups on Facebook. Using Reissman's thematic analysis, data from semi-structured interviews revealed five themes: returning to school (refuge vs. struggle); being there (sources of support); emotional separation (family, friends, and the lost sibling); identification of self/moving forward (turning points following the loss); and family dynamics with departed and surviving (maintaining the lost connection). Future research should intentionally sample other demographics to broaden the understanding of sibling bereavement across age, gender, ethnicity, and religion. Positive social change implications include efforts to promote training and programs sensitive to the unique needs of bereaved young adults in secondary school and college settings.