the empty room: understanding sibling loss (book)

A moving account of mourning the loss of a sibling
Personal experience together with extensive research provides insight into the process of grieving

DeVita-Raeburn suffered the loss of an older brother when she was 14. She weaves this tragic personal experience into her research findings to make a comforting read to anyone who has experienced the death of a sibling. It may also offer some useful insights for therapists or anyone supporting another through such an experience.

Her research (interviews with 77 people), not only highlights the tendency in recent years for the impact of sibling loss on surviving siblings to remain unacknowledged, but also acknowledges the limited significance, (until fairly recently), attributed to sibling relationships from a historical and psychoanalytic perspective. The primary focus has traditionally been on the ‘vertical’ parent-child relationship which, although undoubtedly has a significant impact on individual psychological and emotional development, is not the only story.

Counselling meets the needs of those affected by sibling loss.DeVita-Raeburn explores how unacknowledged sibling loss often leads to disenfranchised, frozen grief which can result in recurring sadness and depression unless the loss of the bereaved sibling is acknowledged and expressed. This failure to acknowledge may occur because there is a sense of a ‘grief pecking order’, in which losing a sibling is viewed as less important than losing a partner, parent or one’s child, or because a bereaved sibling may override their own personal feelings in order to support their parents’ grief.

She provides a very moving account of her own process for mourning the loss of her brother as well as ways in which the bereaved siblings she spoke to dealt with their own losses.

Christina Sensale

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