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Bereaved parents’ and siblings’ reports of legacies created by children with cancer

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Foster, T. L.; Gilmer, M. J.; Davies, B.; Barrera, M.; Fairclough, D.; Vannatta, K.; Gerhardt, C. A.

This qualitative study explored bereaved parents’ and siblings’ reports of legacies created by children with advanced cancer. Participants included 40 families of children who died from cancer, with 36 mothers, 27 fathers, and 40 siblings (ages 8-18 years). Individual interviews were completed at home approximately 10.68 months (SD = 3.48) after the child’s death. Content analysis of interviews indicated that many children living with cancer did specific things to be remembered, such as making crafts for others, willing away belongings, writing letters to loved ones, and giving special gifts. Some children, particularly those who were very ill or died unexpectedly, did not intentionally do or say anything to be remembered. Legacies included bereaved individuals remembering children’s qualities, concern for family, and beliefs about afterlife. Having advanced cancer appeared to motivate children to influence others’ lives and prepare for their own deaths. Children’s advice about how to live life inspired bereaved family members. Findings contribute to the current knowledge of legacy-making in children and offer implications for practice and future research.

Research abstracts