Publication Date

Spring 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Studies


Deanna Fassett


Dialectical Tensions, Emerging Adults, Grief, Liminality, Loss, Sibling

Subject Areas



The longest relationship many of us will share in our lifetime is that with our siblings. Siblings sometimes experience the loss of their brothers and sisters to drunk drivers. Despite the risks associated with drinking and driving, this behavior continues to occur. This study explores drunk driving, sibling loss, and loss during emerging adulthood. This study explores the ways in which dialectical tensions and liminality take shape across educational and professional contexts when emergent adults lose her/his siblings to drunk drivers.

Two dialectical tensions emerged in this work: openness-closedness and connectedness-autonomy. Surviving siblings engage in four patterns of praxis in negotiating loss-related dialectical tensions: disorientation, segmentation, balance, and sharing. Negotiation of these dialectical tensions helps surviving siblings navigate through liminal spaces after a significant loss. Often times, the other party in the communicative act mediates the communication and dialectical tensions surrounding loss. The findings herein suggest that academic and professional institutions as well as instructors and supervisors should engage in grief communication training. In addition, surviving siblings should seek out a space of comfort where they may disclose and discuss their experiences of loss and grief.