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Maternal Grief: A Qualitative Investigation of Mothers' Responses to the Death of a Child From Cancer

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Gerrish, N. J.; Bailey, S.

This study explored bereaved mothers' responses to the death of a child from cancer, with a focus on identifying adaptive and complicated grief reactions. To understand the unique meaning of their loss, in-depth interviews were conducted with 13 mothers at two time points. Interpretative phenomenological analysis-guided by meaning-making theories of loss-revealed five master categories: the perceptions of the child's life with cancer and death from the disease, changed self-identity, coping style, developing an ongoing relationship to the deceased child, and the postdeath social environment. Each of these master categories and associated subthemes provided insights into the characteristics of the bereaved mothers' adaptive and complicated grief responses to their loss. Given all the mothers evidenced multiple forms or types of these responses over time, they could not be categorized as adaptive or complicated grievers. However, the varying proportions of each of these responses highlighted differences in overall bereavement adaptation.

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