Being a parent of an adult son or daughter with severe mental illness receiving professional care: parents’ narratives


  • Anita Pejlert RNT PhD

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Caring Sciences, Mid Sweden University, S-851 70 Sundsvall, Sweden and Department of Nursing, Umeå University, S-901 87 Umeå, Sweden
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CorrespondenceAnita Pejlert Department of Caring Sciences Mid Sweden University S-851 70 Sundsvall Sweden


The aim of this study was to illuminate the meaning of parental care-giving with reference to having an adult son or daughter with severe mental illness living in a care setting. The parents were asked to narrate their relationship to offspring in the past, in the present, and their thoughts and feelings concerning the future. The study was guided by a phenomenological hermeneutic perspective. The meaning of parental care was illuminated in the themes ‘living with sorrow, anguish and constant worry’, ‘living with guilt and shame’, ‘relating with carer/care; comfort and hardships’‘coming to terms with difficulties’ and ‘hoping for a better life for the adult child’. Parental care-giving emerged as a life-long effort. The narratives revealed ongoing grief, sorrow and losses interpreted as chronic sorrow. The narratives disclosed a cultural conflict between the family system and the care system, which was interpreted as a threat to the parental role, but also experiences of receiving comfort and having confidence in the care given. Experiences of stigma were interpreted from the way of labelling illness, narrated experiences of shame and relations with the public and mental health professionals. Parents’ persisting in the care-giving role, striving to look after themselves and expressing hopes for the future were interpreted as a process of coming to terms with difficulties. Results suggest that mental health professionals need to be aware of their own attitudes and treatment of families, improve their cooperation with, and support to families, and provide opportunities for family members to meet one another.