Sibling Bereavement: Helping Children Cope With Loss
by Ann Farrant

Review

Ann Farrant tells the stories of adults who experienced the death of a brother or sister during childhood, in this much needed book. "When a brother or sister dies," she writes, "the children left behind are mourning not only the loss of that sibling, but also the loss of the shape of the family." Using case studies, she describes the aftermath of sibling death. For some, this meant being neglected by grieving parents; for others it meant being targeted for the parents' subsequent anger. Farrant makes it clear that the death itself is only the beginning, and documents the social and psychological damage resulting from the lost "shape of the family." Sadly, many of her subjects were telling their stories for the first time, never having had the support necessary, as children, to grieve the loss. Children, says Farrant, need to have the enormity of the loss acknowledged at the time.

The author looks at this problem from a historical perspective and weaves together the experiences of those she interviewed with sibling loss in the lives of well-known individuals such as J.M. Barrie, Charlotte Bronte, and Vincent Van Gogh. She touches on the role of literature in society's view of childhood loss, and cites recent works as evidence of encouraging changes in our understanding of how death affects children.

I liked this book and, as a clinician, find it a useful tool in working with adults who are just beginning to grieve an early loss. I recommend it for any adult who lost a brother or sister during childhood. Despite the serious subject matter, it is easy to read and leads the reader towards a hopeful future.

 

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