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Many bereaved siblings have still not come to terms with their grief many years after the loss, but few studies have focused on what can help. The aims of this study were to identify cancer-bereaved adolescents’ and young adults’ ways of coping with grief after loss of a sibling, and examine whether these ways of coping were related to their experience of having worked through their grief.
This nationwide survey of 174 cancer-bereaved siblings (73% participation rate) is based on one open-ended question about coping with grief (“What has helped you to cope with your grief after your sibling's death?”) and one closed-ended question about siblings’ long-term grief (“Do you think you have worked through your grief over your sibling's death?”). The open-ended question was analyzed with content analysis; descriptive statistics and Fisher's exact test were used to examine the relation between type of coping and siblings’ long-term grief.
The siblings described four ways of coping: (1) thinking of their dead brother/sister and feeling and expressing their grief; (2) distracting or occupying themselves; (3) engaging in spiritual and religious beliefs/activities; and (4) waiting for time to pass. One of these categories of coping with grief, namely, engaging in spiritual and religious beliefs and activities, was associated with siblings’ experience of having worked through their grief two to nine years after the loss (p = 0.016).
Significance of results
Those siblings who had used spirituality, religious beliefs, and activities to cope were more likely to have worked through their grief than those who had not.
Our aim was to explore bereaved siblings' positive and negative memories and experiences of their brother's or sister's illness and death.
In our nationwide Swedish study, 174 of 240 (73%) bereaved siblings participated, and 70% responded to two open-ended statements, which focused on siblings' positive and negative memories and experiences of illness and death. The data were analyzed using systematic text condensation.
The bereaved siblings' responses were categorized into four different themes: (1) endurance versus vulnerability, (2) family cohesion versus family conflicts, (3) growth versus stagnation, and (4) professional support versus lack of professional support. The first theme expressed endurance as the influence that the ill siblings' strong willpower, good mood, and stamina in their difficult situation had on healthy siblings, whereas vulnerability was expressed as the feeling of emptiness and loneliness involved with having an ill and dying sibling. In the second theme, family cohesion was expressed as the bonds being strengthened between family members, whereas family conflicts often led siblings to feel invisible and unacknowledged. In the third theme, most siblings expressed the feeling that they grew as individuals in the process of their brother's or sister's illness and death, whereas others experienced stagnation because of the physical and mental distress they bore throughout this time, often feeling forgotten. In the last theme—professional support—most siblings perceived physicians and staff at the hospital as being warm, kind, and honest, while some siblings had negative experiences.
Significance of results:
The study shows that bereaved siblings can have positive memories and experiences. The significance of the positive buffering effect on bereaved siblings' own endurance, personal growth, family cohesion, and social support should be noted. This knowledge can be valuable in showing healthcare professionals the importance of supporting the siblings of children with cancer throughout the cancer trajectory and afterwards into bereavement.
The loss of a parent to cancer is considered one of the most traumatic events a teenager can experience. Studies have shown that teenagers, from the time of diagnosis, are already extremely worried about the consequences of a parent's cancer but tend to be left to manage these concerns on their own. The present study aimed to explore young adults' advice to healthcare professionals on how to support teenagers who are losing a parent to cancer.
This work derives from a Swedish nationwide survey and employs a qualitative approach with a descriptive/interpretive design to obtain answers to an open-ended question concerning advice to healthcare professionals. Of the 851 eligible young adults who had lost a parent to cancer when they were 13–16 years of age within the previous 6 to 9 years, 622 participated in our survey (response rate = 73%). Of these 622 young adults, 481 responded to the open-ended question about what advice to give healthcare professionals.
Four themes emerged: (1) to be seen and acknowledged; (2) to understand and prepare for illness, treatment, and the impending death; (3) to spend time with the ill parent, and (4) to receive support tailored to the individual teenager's needs.
Significance of Results:
This nationwide study contributes hands-on suggestions to healthcare staff regarding attitudes, communication, and support from the perspective of young adults who, in their teenage years, lost a parent to cancer. Teenagers may feel better supported during a parent's illness if healthcare professionals take this manageable advice forward into practice and see each teenager as individuals; explain the disease, its treatments, and consequences; encourage teenagers to spend time with their ill parent; and recommend sources of support.
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