Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Geoffrey Nelson

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Existing literature in the area of bereavement as it pertains to young persons focuses primarily upon the death of a parent, and the age groups most studied are either children or adolescents. The goal of this thesis project, therefore, has been to develop an in-depth understanding of the experience of sibling bereavement in young adulthood, looking at factors that both helped and hindered effective coping. Specifically, in-depth interviews with 7 young women who had suffered the loss of a sister or brother while between the ages of 18 and 30 were conducted in an effort to shed light on this type of loss during this stage in life. Participants shared that the loss of the sibling caused changes in their family dynamics, alterations in their physical health and psychological well-being, modified their academic or occupational goals, and transformed many of their social bonds. Helpful methods of coping with the sibling’s absence included using the funeral as a means of gaining closure, remaining emotionally isolated immediately after the death, drawing on social support as time passed, striving to maintain a symbolic connection with the deceased sister or brother, and keeping active. Participants discussed denying the loss and relying on the “wrong” people for support as unhelpful ways of coping. Knowing that the sibling died without pain, being surrounded by understanding people, and the structure provided by academic pursuits were cited as having been external factors that facilitated coping, while negative circumstances around the death event, issues within the family, feeling disconnected from others, experiencing pressure from work, dealing with constant reminders of the loss, and not having the severity of sibling loss acknowledged by society were described as outside influences that hindered effective coping. Based on these findings, a theory of sibling bereavement in young adulthood is advanced, and potential ways of providing support to such individuals are discussed.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season