1 This work was supported in part by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) (MH41967), the American Cancer Society (PRB-24A), the van Ameringen Foundation, the Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and the Project on Death in America of the Open Society Institute.
Version of Record online: 31 DEC 2008
Copyright © 2006 American Cancer Society
CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians
Volume 56, Issue 4, pages 197–212, July/August 2006
How to Cite
Christ, G. H. and Christ, A. E. (2006), Current Approaches to Helping Children Cope with a Parent's Terminal Illness. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 56: 197–212. doi: 10.3322/canjclin.56.4.197
This article is available online at http://CAonline.AmCancerSoc.org
- Issue online: 31 DEC 2008
- Version of Record online: 31 DEC 2008
Much has been learned about childhood bereavement in the last few decades as studies have increasingly focused on the direct interviewing of children about their recovery from the tragic loss of a parent. It has been shown that children do indeed mourn, although differently from adults. Important moderating and mediating variables have been identified that impact their recovery from the loss of a parent, which can be the focus of intervention. When death is expected, the terminal phase of an illness has been found to be particularly stressful for children, yet seldom investigated. Similarly, few studies have explored the impact of development on children's experience and expression of grief. We present research findings that clarify phases in children's experience during the terminal illness, hospital visits, the death, and its immediate aftermath, as well as how the parent is mourned and issues in longer term reconstitution. Variations in children's responses in these phases are described as they were experienced by 87 children from 3 different developmental groupings: 3 to 5 years, 6 to 8 years, and 9 to 11 years. Recommendations are suggested for parents and professionals about ways to understand and support children during the terminal illness, at the time of death, and during the phase of reconstitution.