The Experience of Therapeutic Support Groups by Siblings of Children with Cancer

Margaretha Nolbris, PhDc, MSc, RN; Jonas Abrahamsson, MD, PhD; Anna-Lena Hellström, PhD, RN; Lisa Olofsson, MSc, RN; Karin Enskär, PhD, RN


Pediatr Nurs. 2010;36(6):298-304. 

In This Article


Participation in a sibling group has been shown to decrease anxiety, depression (Barrera, 2000; Barrera, Chung, Greenberg, & Fleming, 2002; Houtzager, Grootenhuis, & Last, 2001), behavioral suppression, and fear of cancer (Barrera, 2000; Barrera et al., 2002). Going to a camp with other children who had a sick sibling was also a positive experience, as was interaction with a group of people of different ages in a similar situation (Adams & Deveau, 1987; Freeman, O'Dell, & Meola, 2003; Havermans & Eiser, 1994; Mahon & Page, 1995; McKeever, 1983; Murray, 1998, 2001, 2002; Nabors et al., 2004; Nolbris & Hellström 2005; Sidhu, Passmore, & Baker, 2006; Sloper 2000).

Social support is very important for the siblings and helps them talk about and deal with their situation (Barrera et al., 2002; Murray, 2001). Creed, Rufflin, and Ward (2001) showed a sibling camp was helpful in dealing with the grief during and after the sick child's treatment, even in cases when the sick child eventually died. The siblings felt they were able to express their emotions by showing their sadness, anger, or happiness in a way they could not do before. It is beneficial for siblings to discuss their recurring and painful thoughts on jealousy and unfairness (Kübler-Ross, 1997). When they meet others in the same situation, the siblings realize they are not alone in their loss. Other benefits of groups could be the opportunity to ask questions in a safe environment in which participants do not have to worry about annoying or hurting anyone. In a study of focus groups for parents, Sidhu et al. (2006) found parents also realized a camp gave siblings time and space for self-reconciliation.

Experiences from sibling support groups need to be investigated further from the siblings' point of view. The aim of the study was to describe the siblings' experiences of their involvement in a therapeutic support group when the family has or has had a child with cancer.


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