Harvard Mental Health Letter

The "forgotten bereaved"

Grief over losing an adult sibling may go unacknowledged.

Although more than four million U.S. adults lose a brother or sister each year, a dearth of information exists about the psychological effects this loss has on surviving siblings. Most research and advice focuses on sibling loss during childhood. But losing an adult brother or sister also has a profound, long-lasting impact on surviving siblings, as an increasing number of baby boomers are discovering.

Dr. Tina J. Wray, assistant professor of religious studies at Salve Regina University in Rhode Island, is one of just a few U.S. experts on adult sibling loss. Following the death of her own 43-year-old brother, Dr. Wray discovered firsthand that society does not consider losing an adult sibling a loss on a par with other significant losses, such as the death of a spouse. She has written one of the few books available on the topic of adult sibling loss.

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