Impact of resilience and social support on long-term grief in cancer-bereaved siblings: an exploratory study

BMC Palliat Care. 2022 Jun 1;21(1):93. doi: 10.1186/s12904-022-00978-5.


Background: Bereavement research has mainly explored potential risk factors associated with adverse outcomes, and the role of protective factors has received less attention. More knowledge is needed about factors related to unresolved grief in bereaved siblings. This study aimed to assess grief adjustment and possible gender differences among bereaved young adults 2-10 years after losing a brother or sister to cancer. We also sought to explore how resilience and social support influenced their grief.

Methods: A total of 99 young adults (18-26 years) who had lost a brother or sister to cancer between the years 2009 and 2014 were invited to participate in this Norwegian nationwide study. The study-specific questionnaire was completed by 36 participants (36.4%). Social support during the sibling's illness, after the death, and during the past year, in addition to grief and resilience, were measured.

Results: Overall, the prevalence of unresolved grief was 47.2% among bereaved siblings, whereas 52.8% had worked through their grief. The level of having worked through grief and resilience was similar between male and female siblings. Bereaved siblings with higher Personal Competence reported lower unresolved grief.

Conclusion: Approximately half of the young adults experience unresolved grief 2-10 years after losing a sibling to cancer. The findings also highlight the need for long-term support for bereaved siblings to help improve their resilience and better have worked through their grief.

Keywords: Bereaved families; Bereavement; Childhood cancer; Unresolved grief; Young adult.

MeSH terms

  • Bereavement*
  • Female
  • Grief
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms*
  • Siblings
  • Social Support
  • Young Adult