An exploratory investigation into the adult survivors' responses to premature sibling death

Nancy Krevlin Cohn (1997)

This is an exploratory investigation of adult surviving sibling's responses to the premature death of their brother or sister. The purpose of this study was to examine how the quality of the sibling connection informed the grief response. This kind of study was chosen to better understand survivors' perceptions of their sibling relationship. This investigation relied on Bank and Kahn's work, The Sibling Bond. Bank and Kahn identified ways in which siblings develop connections by studying varying degrees of sameness and difference. This study explored the relationship between the sibling's perceived quality of connection and their grief response. Ten subjects were interviewed and their responses sorted into one of the following categories regarding the perceived quality of connection: "close," "partial," or "distant." The interview data was then analyzed to examine those themes that emerged within each group. In the close group, only one theme emerged, "Concern for children". In the partial group, three themes emerged; "Creating presence in the face of absence," "Seeking help," and "Perceived change in the areas of relationship and identity." In the distant group, no themes emerged. Survivors in the partial group were considered to have had a resolved grief response; while survivor's in the close and distant groups were considered to have had an unresolved grief response. Those who were in the partial group perceived change in relationship and identity, whereas those survivors in the close and distant group did not. A demographic analysis revealed that the grief response may have been informed by factors other than the sibling connection. Specifically, age, marital status, education, number of siblings, and number of living parents. Additional themes regarding the sibling's experience of loss from the interviews included: envy of others who had siblings, concern for parents, an improved life after the death of a sibling, and an experience of communication with the deceased sibling. Implications for future research were discussed.