Double bereavement, mental health consequences and support needs of children and young adults: —When a divorced parent dies

Jette Marcussen, Frode Thuen, Maja O´Connor, Rhonda Wilson, Lise Hounsgaard

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftsartikelForskningpeer review


Aims and objectives: To explore how children and young adults from divorced families
experience double bereavement when they lose a divorced parent with cancer and
how the double bereavement influences their mental health consequences and need
of support.
Background: Children and young people who are confronted with the cancer and death
of a parent is a highly stressful life event, which is associated with an increased risk of
mental health problems, especially when children experience divorced parental cancer
and death.
Design: Participant observations and interviews with a phenomenological-hermeneutic
approach and COREQ standards for reporting qualitative research.
Methods: We conducted 340 hr of participant observations within nine different
support groups totalling 27 children and young adults from divorced families
and included 28 interviews with participants and relatives. Analyses are based on
Ricoeur's theory of interpretation: naïve reading, structural analysis, interpretation
and discussion.
Results: The experiences with double bereavement identified three main themes: 1.
navigating through multiple transitions and disruptions within two family worlds; 2.
consequences for mental health including stress overload and disruptions to wellbeing;
and 3. need for accessible support derived from close relationships and professionals
within and in-between family worlds.
Conclusion: Children and young adult's double bereavement includes multiple transitions
and disruptions often related to stress overload and mental health problems.
Support from close relationships and professionals is experienced as helpful in the
prevention and mitigation of mental health problems.
Relevance to clinical practice: There is a need for targeted accessible support availability
to children, young adults and their families when a divorced parent is dying of
cancer in clinical practice. Our findings suggest that specific health policies for health
professionals should be developed to target improved support for these families.
TidsskriftJournal of Clinical Nursing
StatusUdgivet - 7 jan. 2020


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