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Anticipatory grief in families of cancer patients

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Title: Anticipatory grief in families of cancer patients
Author: Warren, Barbara
Degree Master of Science - MSc
Program Nursing
Copyright Date: 1978
Subject Keywords Neoplasms --psychology; Grief; Cancer --Psychological aspects
Abstract: Anticipatory grief has been described as a grief reaction which occurs prior to an expected loss. If cancer is perceived as a threat to life, relatives of patients diagnosed with cancer may experience anticipatory grief upon learning of the patient's diagnosis. Health professionals must have a greater awareness of the manifestations of this syndrome if they are to provide comprehensive care to these patients and their families. This study was designed to determine if a diagnosis of cancer does precipitate the manifestations of anticipatory grief first described by E. Lindemann in members of the patient's family. These manifestations include heightened preoccupation with the patient, depression, a review of the possible forms of death which may befall the patient and anticipation of the modes of readjustment that would be necessitated by his death. Using a semi-structured interview guide with open-ended questions, the investigator interviewed twenty family members of fourteen patients. The sample included spouses, children and parents of the patients. All of the interviews were recorded on audiotapes which were used for content analysis of the data. Of the twenty subjects, seven described all four manifestations, six mentioned three, three mentioned two, three mentioned one, and one subject did not mention any of the manifestations. Heightened preoccupation was described by seventeen subjects, depression by sixteen, reviewing forms of death by thirteen and anticipation of modes of readjustment by nine. Other common reactions expressed were fear of the disease and it consequences, hope inspired by knowledge gained from the clinic' specialists, and a feeling of ambivalence toward the disease and its treatment. Family differences were emphasized by the subjects' expressions of concern about the reactions of other members of the family. The results of this study indicate that Lindemann's theory can be used as a framework for assessing the anticipatory grief reactions of this population and suggest that it may also be applicable in a wider range of life-threatening situations. The fact that anticipatory grief was not experienced universally by this group was contrary to statements made in the literature that anticipatory grief is inevitable following a diagnosis of cancer and suggests that the attitude toward this disease may be changing. Further study is needed to determine if knowledge level or perception of the disease are significantly related to the experience of anticipatory grief in the early stages of the disease and if there are other factors which may be influential.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/20852
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]

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