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Keywords:

  • adaptation;
  • children;
  • chronic sorrow;
  • nursing;
  • parents;
  • qualitative research;
  • type 1 diabetes

Abstract

Title. Chronic sorrow in parents of children with type 1 diabetes.

Aim.  This paper reports on a study exploring parents’ longer-term experiences of having a child with type 1 diabetes.

Background.  Parents of children with type 1 diabetes may experience a grief reaction at diagnosis similar to that normally associated with bereavement, but little is known about their long-term emotional adaptation. Chronic sorrow, a sustained but intermittent grief reaction, is identified in adults with diabetes but has not previously been explored in relation to parents.

Methodology.  In-depth interviews were conducted in 2007 with a convenience sample of 17 parents of children with type 1 diabetes 7–10 years after diagnosis. Data were explored within a theoretical framework of grief, loss, adaptation, and change.

Findings.  Parents had adapted to the needs of diabetes management but most had not ‘come to terms’ with the diagnosis. They experienced a resurgence of grief at critical times during their child’s development and some, particularly mothers, became upset during their interviews, even though these took place 7–10 years after their child’s diagnosis. Mothers elaborated more on their emotions than fathers, but continuing feelings associated with grief, such as anger and guilt, were expressed by both fathers and mothers.

Conclusion.  Greater understanding of parents’ long-term emotional responses and recognition that grief may never resolve in these parents may enable healthcare professionals to provide appropriate and timely support at critical times.