Supporting youth grieving the dying or death of a sibling or parent: considerations for parents, professionals, and communities

Curr Opin Support Palliat Care. 2015 Mar;9(1):58-63. doi: 10.1097/SPC.0000000000000115.


Purpose of review: The aim of this article is to highlight considerations for parents, professionals, and communities regarding supporting children and adolescents who are grieving the dying or death of a parent or sibling.

Recent findings: Current research is directly engaging the voices of youth who have experienced a parent or sibling's death. Although there continues to be much evidence about the distressing effect of such deaths on children and adolescents, there is a welcome emerging tendency to distinguish between adaptive and maladaptive grief. Although the literature strongly encourages parents to take an open and honest approach to supporting youth prior to a death, many barriers remain to them doing so. The literature identifies healthcare providers as being ideally positioned to provide guidance to families around best practice in the area of preparing youth for the death of a parent or sibling. Following a death, there is now encouraging evidence regarding the efficacy of certain interventions for bereaved youth, both in the short and long term, which is an important development in the field.

Summary: Youth benefit from being involved in open and honest conversations about a family member's cancer diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, and end-of-life care. Although advances are being made with regard to understanding the grief experience of youth, there remains a wide gap between the current theoretical knowledge and the availability of practical well informed support for grieving youth.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Bereavement
  • Family Therapy / organization & administration
  • Grief*
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care / organization & administration*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Siblings / psychology*
  • Terminal Care / organization & administration*