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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation-ISU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mennonite College of Nursing

First Advisor

Cynthia Kerber


The purpose of this dissertation was to understand the current literature on sibling grief, identify gaps in research on sibling grief, and to gain a better understanding of this phenomenon through narrative analysis and autoethnography. A review of the literature indicates those experiencing sibling grief may be overlooked in their grief process. Research has linked experiencing the death of a sibling to an increase in overall mortality risk, suicide risk, mental health issues, negative socioeconomic outcomes, risk of infection, myocardial infarction, stroke and dementia. Questions not addressed in the literature include: Why are women at greater risk for significant negative outcomes?; How does being "forgotten" impact sibling grief?; and What is the impact of developmental stage on grieving? A comprehensive understanding is lacking on the unique nature of sibling grief. To address this gap in the literature, an exploratory narrative analysis was conducted and a shared narrative of sibling grief was created by evaluating common themes among individual stories. Twenty-seven participants were interviewed who had lost a brother or sister. The common themes are presented in chronological order. The time spent together before the death is discussed under the theme, Shared Life: Identity within the Sibling Arrangement. The experience of the sibling death is encapsulated under the theme, Sibling Death: Pivotal Moments In Time. Life After Sibling Loss includes three minor themes, The Absence of Joy, Missing Roles & Relationships and The Sibling Lives On. The shared narrative illustrates the deep impact that sibling death has on the surviving sibling and on the family as a system. Additionally, an autoethnography explores the author's journey in conducting the interviews and the impact this had on her grief of her own two brothers. The author argues three main thematic findings within the autoethnography. First, sibling grief narratives are sacred. Second, aspects of the sibling grief experience can be so intense that vulnerable, grieving siblings may avoid disclosure, keeping the grieving process hidden. Finally, story-telling and shared narratives transform and heal the grieving heart. These findings can assist in ethical interviewing of the bereaved and further support the therapeutic value of story telling in grief work. By understanding the potential mental and physical health risks that bereaved siblings may encounter, better interventions can be developed. Health professionals need to understand the impact of sibling grief on physical and mental health outcomes.


Imported from ProQuest Funk_ilstu_0092E_10609.pdf


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