Who will I be now? : the lived experience of adolescent sibling bereavement within the school context

Schroeder, Lesley Ann (2013-03)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study explores the needs of sibling-bereaved adolescents in high schools in the Western Cape, South Africa. A grounded theory approach was used to examine unexpected sibling bereavement with specific focus on participant perceptions and experiences regarding support provided by their high school. Interviews and focus groups were conducted with siblings who were in high school when their brother or sister died suddenly. An argument is developed for why high schools need insight into effective ways of supporting sibling-bereaved adolescents as they attempt to fit in and function at school. As this study was conducted in a multi-language environment, attention is given to the differing abilities of adolescents to articulate their bereavement experience. The effectiveness of focus groups with this population and the importance of providing psycho-education support during the interviewing process are emphasised. The scarcity of studies on adolescent bereavement in South Africa can be attributed to a combination of the emotional painfulness of the subject for adolescents and gatekeeping by school personnel and parents. Understandably, concerns about disclosure and fresh trauma/grief triggering may be given precedence over research. Themes grounded in the data uncovered a psychosocial journey involving disruption, transition and changed self. Bereaved siblings felt singled out as different from their peers when they return to school. Hence discreet acknowledgement and disclosure of the death is important to them. A key finding is that accomplishment plays a significant role in boosting the flagging morale of bereaved adolescents. Accomplishment aids their inviduation and stimulates them to regain interest in their own life goals. While individual teachers and other school personnel were considered helpful, there was an absence of a structured plan of support for bereaved adolescents in the schools examined. Attachment theory foregrounded an explanation of why the loss of a sibling during adolescence can have a lasting influence on the future of those left behind. Most adolescents in the study evidenced a desire for an on-going connection with their sibling who died while they simultaneously took on new roles to try and fill the void created by their death. Findings from this study are intended to provide richer insight into the complexity of adolescent sibling bereavement and may also serve to inform educational and health care interventions for bereaved learners in South Africa.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie verken die behoeftes van adolessente in hoërskole in die Wes-Kaap, Suid-Afrika, ná die verlies van ’n broer of suster. ’n Gegronde-teorie-benadering is gebruik om ondersoek in te stel na adolessente wat onverwags ’n broer of suster verloor het, met bepaalde klem op deelnemers se opvattings oor, en ervarings van, die steun wat hulle van hul onderskeie hoërskole ontvang het. Onderhoude en fokusgroepe is dus gehou met adolessente wat op hoërskool was toe hul broer of suster skielik gesterf het. Die studie beredeneer waarom hoërskole insig moet hê in die doeltreffende ondersteuning van adolessente wat ’n broer of suster aan die dood moes afstaan, namate hulle weer op skool probeer inpas en funksioneer. Aangesien hierdie studie in ’n meertalige omgewing uitgevoer is, word adolessente se wisselende vermoëns om hul ervaring van verlies te verwoord, in ag geneem. Die doeltreffendheid van fokusgroepe met hierdie populasie, sowel as die belang van psigo-opvoedkundige steun gedurende die onderhoudproses, word beklemtoon. Die seldsaamheid van Suid-Afrikaanse studies oor adolessente wat broers of susters verloor, kan toegeskryf word aan ’n kombinasie van die emosionele pyn wat die onderwerp by adolessente oproep, en skoolpersoneel en ouers wat adolessente teen sodanige navorsing beskerm. Uiteraard is dit te verstane dat kommer oor openbaarmaking en die vars trauma/hartseer wat dit kan ontlok, dikwels voorrang kry bo navorsing. Die temas wat in die data vasgelê was, bring ’n psigososiale reis van ontwrigting, oorgang en verandering van die self aan die lig. Adolessente wat broers of susters aan die dood moes afstaan, het met hul terugkeer skool toe uitgesonder en anders as hul portuur gevoel. Dus is oordeelkundige erkenning en openbaarmaking van die sterfgeval vir hulle belangrik. Een van die belangrikste bevindinge is dat prestasie ’n beduidende rol speel om die verswakte moreel van sodanige adolessente ’n hupstoot te gee. Prestasie help met hulle individuasie, en stimuleer hulle om opnuut in hul eie lewensdoelwitte belang te stel. Hoewel individuele onderwysers en ander skoolpersoneel as tegemoetkomend beskou is, was daar geen gestruktureerde ondersteuningsplan vir die adolessente in die betrokke skole nie. Die gehegtheidsteorie doen ’n verklaring aan die hand van waarom die verlies van ’n broer of suster gedurende adolessensie ’n blywende invloed kan hê op die toekoms van die kinders wat agterbly. Die meeste adolessente in die studie het ’n begeerte getoon na ’n voortgesette band met hul oorlede broer of suster, terwyl hu lle terselfdertyd nuwe rolle aanvaar het om die leemte van die oorledene te probeer vul. Bevindinge uit hierdie studie is bedoel om dieper insig te bied in die kompleksiteit van adolessente wat broers of susters verloor, en kan ook opvoedkundige en gesondheidsorgintervensies vir sodanige leerders in Suid-Afrika rig.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/80040
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