Definitely Mixed Feelings: The Effect of COVID-19 on Bereavement in Parents of Children Who Died of Cancer


Definitely Mixed Feelings: The Effect of COVID-19 on Bereavement in Parents of Children Who Died of Cancer


Helton G; Wolfe J; Snaman JM


Journal of Pain and Symptom Management




bereavement; Bereavement; Female; Humans; Male; Parents/psychology; Attitude to Death; Adaptation Psychological; grief; Attitude to Death; pediatric cancer; bereaved parents; Neoplasms; Neoplasms; Adaptation Psychological/physiology; Parents -- Psychosocial Factors; Disease Outbreaks; Pandemics; Covid-19; Bereavement; Coronavirus Infections/psychology; Pneumonia Viral/psychology; Arthritis Impact Measurement Scales; Coronavirus Infections -- Psychosocial Factors; Pneumonia Viral -- Psychosocial Factors; Ways of Coping Questionnaire


Context: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has impacted most elements of daily life, including the provision of support after a child's death and the experience of parental bereavement.Objectives: This study aims to examine ways in which COVID-19 has affected the bereavement experiences of parents whose children died of cancer before the pandemic.Methods: Parents who participated in a survey-based study examining the early grief experience were invited to complete a semistructured interview. During the interview, which focused on examining the current support for parents and other family members within the first several years after the child's death, participants were asked how COVID-19 has impacted their life and bereavement.Results: Fifteen of 33 eligible parents completed the interview; 14 were white and non-Hispanic, five were males. Parents participated an average of 19 (range 12-34) months after their child's death. COVID-19 was addressed in 13 interviews. Eleven codes were used to describe interview segments; the most commonly used codes were change in support, no effect, familiarity with uncertainty/ability to cope, and change in contact with care/research team.Conclusion: Parents identified multiple and variable ways-both positive, negative, and neutral-how COVID-19 has affected their bereavement. Many parents commented on feeling more isolated because of the inability to connect with family or attend in-person support groups, whereas others acknowledged their experience has made them uniquely positioned to cope with the uncertainty of the current situation. Clinicians must find innovative ways to connect with and support bereaved parents during this unique time.


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Citation List Month

2021 Special Edition - Oncology


Helton G; Wolfe J; Snaman JM, “Definitely Mixed Feelings: The Effect of COVID-19 on Bereavement in Parents of Children Who Died of Cancer,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed October 2, 2023,