Better Silent than Silenced: Searching for the Words of Sibling Suicide Bereavement
Commonly referred to as ‘the forgotten mourners’, little has been written about siblings bereaved by suicide. Grieving parents, children and spouses have been extensively studied by comparison, and this seems to mirror what happens in the aftermath of a self-inflicted death. For numerous reasons brothers and sisters find themselves voiceless in their grief, despite intense longing to talk about what has happened.
In this research, I draw on the loss of my own brother to suicide to heuristically explore what helps me put words to the experience of living through his death. Located within a phenomenological paradigm, the study is guided by Moustakas’ (1990) method to facilitate sustained immersion, self-dialogue and self-discovery. From this process, five main ‘facets’ of the experience of losing a sibling to suicide were identified, ranging from basic disclosure through to deep discussion of the details and ongoing impact. By examining these themes in relation to who I was speaking to, and the role/s each of us were holding at that moment, the experience is distilled to a basic equation that belies immense personal and social complexity beneath. When choosing to speak or stay silent about sibling suicide, the fear of relational pain in a given interaction is weighed against the longing to be known.
Potential implications for theory, psychotherapy training, and psychotherapeutic work with others in this client group are discussed. An examination of how the findings may be considered within a wider social context follows, along with concluding suggestions for future research.