Bereaved mothers and fathers : Grief and psychological health 1 to 5 years after losing a child to cancer

Sammanfattning: Bereaved parents often experience severe suffering and are at elevated risk for developing grief complications such as prolonged grief and other negative psychological health outcomes. The general aim of this thesis was to investigate symptoms of prolonged grief, depression, posttraumatic stress, anxiety, rumination, and sleep disturbance in parents who had lost a child to cancer 1 to5 years earlier. Attention was also given to the potential impact on the parents’grief of their experiences during the child’s illness, and finally to the parents’ views on their coping with grief. Methods: A cross-sectional design for data collection was used for all four studies in this thesis. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used for data analysis, to provide various and complementing perspectives on bereaved parents’ grief and their psychological health. Results:Bereaved parents’ symptom levels of prolonged grief and psychological symptoms were found to be elevated and neither time- nor gender-dependent across the first five years after the loss. We also found that some of the parents’experiences during their child’s illness were associated with their grief and psychological symptoms. These factors differed for mothers and fathers. Mothers valued trustful relations with health care professionals, while fathers reported better psychological health when they had received support in practical matters. Findings also showed that parents found certain factors facilitated or complicated their coping with grief. Unsurprisingly, social support promoted positive coping with grief, while a less familiar factor – going back to work – could make coping with grief harder. Clinical implications: The findings provide knowledge which can improve the care for children, through development of support to their parents in pediatric oncology contexts and in bereavement.