“I never told my family I was grieving for my mom”: The not‐disclosing‐grief experiences of parentally bereaved adolescents and young adults in Chinese families

Yunjun Li*, Wallace Chi Ho Chan, Tish Marrable

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

In bereavement literature, the significance of open communication within the family is often highlighted. However, in recent years, scholars have noticed the complexity of grief communication in the family, especially challenges and obstacles to sharing grief. Our study seeks to contribute to the research by offering a deeper understanding of the grief‐sharing experiences of parentally bereaved adolescents and young adults from China, a family‐centered society with strong traditions of treating bereavement and grief as taboo. We used a narrative approach to analyze 82 interviews with 44 participants. We found that almost all the participants, regardless of their gender, parent's gender, cause of death, or time since loss, indicated that they never shared grief with other family members. Specifically, three themes emerged from the analysis. “Holding back tears during the funeral” reflects participants' struggle to protect the family (especially the surviving parent) through hiding their grief during the family crisis. “Pretending no grief at all after loss” shows how participants intentionally avoided any grief conversations within the family to not trigger others' grief. In addition, “Keeping grief secret as a family rule” indicates how Chinese families powerfully guided and influenced participants in avoiding the open expression of their grief. Our findings have drawn attention to the not‐disclosing‐grief experiences of bereaved adolescents and young adults in the Chinese context and the role of the family in it, therefore, calling for further support for bereaved young people, either within the family or through professional services.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-391
Number of pages13
JournalFamily Process
Volume63
Issue number1
Early online date6 Feb 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024

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