Following a child’s death from cancer, parents experience a unique grief which may be experienced differently by mothers and fathers. However, there is a lack of knowledge about the particular bereavement experiences of the parents of young adults and their support needs.
The aim of the study was to investigate the bereavement experiences and support needs of parents following the death of a child (aged 16 29 years old) from cancer and explore how these change over time.
The study used a Charmazian constructivist grounded theory ( approach. Semi structured interviews were conducted with 11 parents (seven mothers, four fathers) who were purposefully sampled from one specialist cancer centre and who had been bereaved for between 15 months and
7 years. Data were analysed inductively using the constant comparative approach with initial and focused coding for category development and core category identification.
‘Living with continual loss’ emerged as the core category which was central to parents’ experiences of bereavement. Feelings of continual loss were compounded by parents’ lack of information about bereavement (‘grieving in the dark’) and a perceived lack of understanding and support from families and friend s (‘grieving alone’). Nevertheless, parents discovered strategies to help them manage living with continual loss (‘changing routines’, ‘preserving the meaning of home’, ‘maintaining memories and presence’ and ‘sharing experiences’).
This is the first study focusing on the experiences and support needs of bereaved parents of young adults who have died from cancer. It has revealed that parents lived with a continual sense of loss irrespective of the length of bereavement. While they dev eloped strategies over time to
manage this loss, they experienced a lack of information and empathetic emotional support.