School Aged Children’s Experiences 7 and 13 Months Following a Sibling’s Death
This study described 6-year to 12-year-old children’s responses 7 and 13 months after siblings’ NICU/PICU/ED death. Using semi-structured interviews, at 7 months, children were asked about events around their sibling’s death. At both 7 and 13 months, children were asked about their thoughts and feelings about the deceased, concerns or fears, and life changes since the death. Thirty one children (58% female), recruited from four South Florida hospitals and Florida obituaries, participated. Children’s mean age was 8.4 years; 64.5% were Black, 22.5% Hispanic, 13% White. Interviews were analyzed using conventional content analysis. Resulting themes: circumstances of the death, burial events, thinking about and talking to the deceased sibling, fears, and life changes. Most children knew their sibling’s cause of death, attended funeral/memorials, thought about and talked to their deceased sibling, reported changes in family and themselves over the 13 months. Fears (something happening to themselves, parents, other siblings—death, cancer, being snatched away) decreased from 7 to 13 months especially in 7-year to 9-year-olds. Seven-year to 9-year-olds reported the greatest change in themselves from 7 to 13 months. More Black children and girls thought about the deceased and reported more changes in themselves over the 13 months. School aged children thought about and talked with their deceased sibling, reported changes in themselves and their family and their fears decreased over the first 13 months after their sibling’s death
KeywordsChild death Sibling death School aged children Siblings Bereavement
The study was funded by grant R01 NR012675 from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Nursing Research. The research reported does not reflect the views of the NIH or NINR.
Both authors are principal investigators on the grant; participated in the concept and design, analysis and interpretation of data, and drafting of the manuscript; and have approved the manuscript as submitted. Neither of the authors has any competing financial interests or conflicts of interest in relation to this work.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
- Birenbaum, L. (2000). Assessing children’s and teenagers’ bereavement when a sibling dies from cancer: A secondary analysis. Child: Care, Health and Development, 26, 381–400. PMID: 10998002.Google Scholar
- Brent, S. B., Speece, M. W., Lin, C., Dong, Q., & Yang, C. (1996). The development of the concept of death among Chinese and US children 3-17 years of age: From binary to “fuzzy” concepts? Omega, 33, 67–83.Google Scholar
- Brooten, D., Youngblut, J. M., Charles, D., Roche, R., Hidalgo, I., & Malkawi, F. (2016). Death rituals reported by White, Black, and Hispanic parents following the ICU death of an infant or child. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 31, 132–140. doi: 10.1016/j.pedn.2015.10.017. PMC 4769949.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Brooten, D., Youngblut, J. M., Seagrave, L., Caicedo, C., Hawthorne, D., Hidalgo, I., & Roche, R. (2013). Parent’s perceptions of health care providers’ actions around child ICU death: What helped, what did not. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, 30(1), 40–49. doi: 10.1177/1049909112444301. PMC3532561.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Erlandsson, K., Avelin, P., Säflund, K., Wredling, R., & Rådestad, I. (2010). Siblings’ farewell to a stillborn sister or brother and parents’ support to their older children: A questionnaire study from the parents’ perspective. Journal of Children’s Health Care, 14(2), 151–160. doi: 10.1177/1367493509355621.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Gerhardt, C. A., Fairclough, D. L., Grossenbacher, J. C., Barrera, M., Gilmer, M. J., Foster, T. L., Compas, B. E., Davies, B., Hogan, N. S., & Vannatta, K. (2012). Peer relationships of bereaved siblings and comparison classmates after a child’s death from cancer. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 37(2), 209–219. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsr082.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Girard, G. A., & Silber, T. J. (2011). The aftermath of adolescent suicide: Clinical, ethical, and spiritual issues. Adolescent Medicine, 22, 229–239. PMID: 22106737.Google Scholar
- Heron, M. (2011). Deaths: Leading causes for 2007. National Vital Statistics Report, 59(8). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.Google Scholar
- Kübler-Ross, E. (1969). On death and dying. New York: Scribner.Google Scholar
- Lohan, J., & Murphy, S. (2001-2002). Parents’ perceptions of adolescent sibling grief responses after an adolescent or young adult child’s sudden, violent death. Omega, 44, 77–95.Google Scholar
- Roche, R., Brooten, D., & Youngblut, J. M. (2016). Comparison of parent and sibling perceptions of surviving sibling’s health following ICU death of a brother or sister. International Journal of Nursing and Clinical Practices, 3, 185–191. doi: 10.15344/2394-4978/2016/185. Epub 7 Jun PMC 5036584.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Youngblut, J.M., & Brooten, D. (2010-2016). Children’s responses to sibling death in the NICU/PICU in 3 racial/ethnic groups. National Institute of Nursing Research, NIH, R01 NR012675.Google Scholar