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Facing the loss of siblings in childhood: Interactions and dynamics between bereaved siblings and their parents

      Highlights

      • The impact of grief on the bereaved child could emanate from the loss of the sibling or from the grief of the parents.
      • This study highlights the importance of viewing the sibling bereavement experience in a family context.
      • Helping professionals may strengthen their role in enhancing parents' capacity to support their bereaved children.

      Abstract

      Introduction

      The loss of a child in a family is a painful experience. Despite this, most studies focus on the grieving experience of parents. Our understanding of sibling bereavement therefore remains underexplored. This study aims to address this gap by exploring the bereavement experience of younger bereaved siblings from the perspective of the bereaved child and the parents.

      Method

      This study is a qualitative study conducted in Hong Kong. We recruited eleven bereaved families from 2019 to 2020. Semi-structured interviews were conducted separately with bereaved children and parents. Thematic analyses were performed.

      Findings

      Eleven bereaved siblings, aged 5 to 11, and their parents were interviewed. Four themes were generated: Parents' unawareness of bereaved siblings' grief, protecting parents from grief, comparison with the deceased siblings, and learning how to grieve.

      Conclusion

      Our findings suggest that the family dynamics and interactions in the grieving experience are complex. The impact of grief on the bereaved child could emanate from the loss of the sibling or from the grief of the parents or from family interactions.

      Practice implications

      This study highlights the importance of viewing the sibling bereavement experience in a family context and of enhancing sibling bereavement services. Helping professionals should not only provide more bereavement support to the bereaved siblings individually, but they should also enhance parents' capacity to support their bereaved children.

      Keywords

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