U hosts lecture on grief over sibling loss

By Allison Johnson, Staff Writer

When a family member passes away, Jan Hare said siblings usually have the closest bond with the deceased, but are often overlooked in the grieving process.

Hare, a professor of family studies and gerontology at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, gave a lecture exploring how children cope with the death of a sibling at Primary Children’s Medical Center on Monday.

Hare suggested grieving siblings should go to support groups, talk to school counselors and discuss positive memories with friends and families about the deceased to deal with the loss.

Cheryl Wright, chair of the U Department of Family and Consumer Studies, said she believes the lecture was a great opportunity for students and community members to learn more about the grieving process and share coping strategies.

“It is also helpful for those of us who know someone who has experienced such a great loss…to (help) them through their grieving,” Wright said.

“Siblings are often characterized as the forgotten mourners and the invisible grievers,” Hare said.

She said it’s unhealthy to ignore the death because they have a difficult time coping with grief, especially at young ages.

“The death of a sibling is like the loss of a lifelong companion,” Hare said. “It is particularly difficult for young adults because (adolescence) is a turbulent time anyway.”

Throughout the lecture, Hare stressed that the sibling can handle the situation by choosing to either be overwhelmed by grief or to learn from the experience.

She said other family members and friends should incorporate the sibling of the deceased into their lives.

“Grieving is an inherently active, choice-filled process,” Hare said. “One must choose how they are going to live the rest of their life…after the death of a sibling.”

John Moerer was faced with a similar situation when his brother Eric died in his teens. Moerer was away at college when his brother died, and said it was difficult to be an only child.

Moerer’s parents, Tina and Michael, created the Eric Moerer Memorial Lecture Series that sponsored Hare’s lecture. The series offers multiple lectures throughout the year about child development and other issues. Paige Hess, a freshman nursing major, attended the lecture for a class assignment, but ended up learning more than she expected.

“I learned ways that you can be there for people who have lost a sibling without being overbearing, or overwhelming them,” she said.

The lecture was cosponsored by the Sharing Place, Primary Children’s Medical Center’s Family Support Services, and the U’s Department of Family and Consumer Studies.

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