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Many people experience an ongoing relationship with a deceased loved one. This is called a “continued bond.” However, little is known about the adolescent experience with continued bonds once a parent has died. This study describes three ways that adolescents continue their relationship with a parent after that parent's death.
Individual semistructured interviews were conducted with nine adolescent children of deceased hospice patients from a large hospice in northeastern Ohio as part of a larger grounded-theory study. The interviews were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed using a conventional content analysis approach.
Adolescents continued their bonds with deceased parents in one of three ways: experiencing encounters with the deceased parent, listening to the inner guide of the parent, and keeping mementos to remind them of the parent.
Significance of results:
The ways that the adolescents continued their bond with a deceased parent assisted them in creating meaning out of their loss and adjusting to life without that parent. Our results can be used by health professionals and parents to help adolescents after a parent has died.
Research at the end of life tends to focus on the dying patient's symptoms, often overlooking issues associated with family interactions. However, many families struggle just to maintain or initiate these valuable connections. The purpose of our pilot study was to explore family relationships at the end of life and investigate associations among perceived comfort, relatedness states, and life closure.
This descriptive study used a cross-sectional design, and a convenience sample (n = 30; 18 women; mean age = 71 years) was recruited from patients admitted to a large not-for-profit hospice in northeastern Ohio. In-person interviews using the Hospice Comfort Questionnaire, Relatedness States Visual Analog Scales, and the Life-Closure Scale provided data for analyses.
Family interactions that were not associated with the physical tasks of caregiving were related to life closure (r = 0.36, p = 0.001), and life closure and comfort were highly correlated (r = 0.69, p < 0.001). Participants residing in an inpatient setting had higher levels of involvement (t = –2.07, p = 0.05) and comfort in relationships (t = –2.06, p = 0.05) than those in the home setting.
Significance of Results:
This is the first known study investigating the associations among comfort, relatedness, and life closure at the end of life. The majority of participants had high levels of involvement and comfort in their relationships, and they preferred interactions that required minimal effort. Studies that focus on both patients' and family members' perceptions of relationships are needed as well as outcome studies that test simple interventions.
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