• Stine Bendix Vase
4. term, Social Work, Master (Master Programme)

This master’s thesis examines the experiences of bereaved siblings, and how they manage the loss of a sibling due to illness, how it affects their self-identity, and their construction of meaning. Furthermore, I wish to examine how the bereaved siblings receive help and, equally important, what kind of help they request.

Previous research in this field is limited, and most of the research are limited to psychological studies. Therefore, there is a need for a more sociological and retrospective study, focusing on the experiences of bereaved siblings. This is important in order to get a grasp of how the loss of a sibling affects bereaved siblings in the long term.

This thesis is based on a philosophical hermeneutic scientific theory, with a retrospective narrative approach for research design. For the collection of empirical data, a qualitative methodology, in form of seven conducted narrative interviews of young bereaved siblings, is used. The theoretical framework for the analysis is mainly based on the narrative identity theory, and Antonovsky’s theory of “sense of coherence”. Furthermore, theories concerning grief and the postmodern youth were used.

In order to produce an analytical generalization of the empirical patterns, an adaptive interpretative process was used. The theory has been challenged, interpreted and reconsidered in relation to the empirical data of the study and thereby there has been obtained new knowledge.

The main finding is that there exists at least three different kinds of narratives, which individually contains the method of how the bereaved siblings manage their loss and how it affects their self-image and construction of meaning. The narratives can be described as: First, an escape narrative, where the bereaved sibling tries to escape from the grief. Second, a rebuild narrative, where the bereaved sibling lives through the grief, becoming stronger and developing a new identity and construction of meaning, based on overcoming the loss. Lastly, a re-membering narrative, where the bereaved sibling persists in remembering the deceased sibling, and creates a new identity and meaning construction in an attempt to live for the dead sibling also.

Other findings show that the loss of a sibling can either bring the family closer together or split it apart. The latter may result in an added loss for the bereaved sibling, as they might lose contact with their parents for either a short period or more long-term.

Another essential element was that the bereaved sibling experience a taboo concerning the loss of their sibling from their social circle. This isolates them, as they feel lonely in their grief. However, it turned out that the taboo also concerned the bereaved siblings themselves, which is why the siblings who were open about their grief did not, in the same way, experience the taboo.

This thesis show that the bereaved siblings request more “grief-groups” for bereaved siblings only. It is essential that the bereaved siblings do not receive professional help too early, as they have to be ready for it in order for the help to be beneficial.

In conclusion, the loss of a sibling is a complex and individual experience. Therefore it is essential that the narrative of the bereaved siblings is handled individually, in order to help them in the best way possible.

Publication date16 Nov 2015
Number of pages111
External collaboratorBørn, Unge & Sorg
Senioranalytiker Marie Tølbøll mst@bornungesorg.dk
Information group
ID: 222130658