Deborah Ellen Deeter


Walking The Grief Journey With Siblings Aged 60 Years And Older

October 2017
Vrije Universiteit Brussel

In this dissertation, I explore the grief process in older adults (60 years and older) after they have experienced the death of a sibling. My focus was on the collection of stories from the lived experience of grief. Previous research has focused on grief in childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, and middle adulthood. Existing research on older aged adults has focused primarily on mental health concerns for the surviving sibling. I combined 2 sources of narrative inquiry to create the narrative methodology. Narrative inquiry (Clandinin, 2013; Clandinin & Connelly, 2000) and dialogical narrative analysis (Frank, 2005, 2010, 2012) provided the parameters for the creation and analysis involved in this inquiry. I share 6 stories in this inquiry: 5 from the participants and 1 from me as the author. I gathered the stories by engaging in and recording conversations. Each conversational partner participated further by reading and reviewing her/his retold story. I included the conversational partners’ responses as integral aspects of the told story. I obtained data when coding excerpts from the stories into unique themes and group themes. The unique themes in each story linked into the 5 group themes identified: on grief and death; the family footprint; holding connection; story reflections; and how we met. The discoveries offer insight into the grief experience of the older sibling. The four unique learnings are grief is influenced by other stories; shock is the response to the death of a sibling; relational time is not chronological time; and siblings create the bridge for the transforming family story. The learnings from the inquiry describe the importance of understanding grief as a process in the primary relationship of older siblings.