Bereaved parents’ experience of adapting to life after the death of a co-parent with cancer who has dependent children.

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Background: Where a parent of dependent children has died with cancer, the bereaved parent is navigating their own and each of their children’s grief. Dependent children are more susceptive to adverse psychological reactions following the death of a parent. However appropriate familial support can mediate for such reactions, especially that of the bereaved parent. The aim of this study is to explore bereaved parents’ experience of adapting to life when a co-parent of dependent children has died with cancer.
Methods: 21 in-depth interviews were conducted with bereaved parents when a co-parent died with cancer. Data were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis.
Results: Bereaved parents highlighted the children as their key focus after the death of a parent with cancer, as they effortfully strived to be a ‘perfect parent’. While some bereaved parents struggled to adapt to the role as a sole parent, others described the importance of maximising social networks to help with the practical aspects of parenting. However, most bereaved parents described intense feelings of loneliness as they navigated parenting alone. To help navigate this post-bereavement period, bereaved parents considered it important for their children to openly talk about the deceased parent. Also, meeting others who have experienced similar situations was helpful for the bereaved parent and children, providing hope for the future. Results are discussed under two themes: (1) adapting to life without the parent, and (2) keeping the memory alive of the parent that died with cancer.
Conclusion: The bereaved parent is central to helping their children navigate grief following the death of a co-parent with cancer. Bereaved parents should be reassured that showing emotion in front of the children is healthy and could facilitate better grief experiences for the whole family. Bereaved parents should be encouraged to practice self-care when a co-parent has died from cancer so they can appropriately meet the needs of their children.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 11 Nov 2022
EventUKONS Annual Conference 2022 - ICC, Belfast, Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 11 Nov 202212 Nov 2022


ConferenceUKONS Annual Conference 2022
Abbreviated titleUKONS
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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