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adolescents/youth, advanced cancer, bereavement, parental death, qualitative research



  1. Sheehan, Denice Kopchak PhD, FPCN, RN
  2. Hansen, Dana PhD, APRN, ACHPN
  3. Stephenson, Pam PhD, RN
  4. Mayo, Murray PhD, RN
  5. Albataineh, Raya PhD, RN
  6. Anaba, Ezinne MPH, BSN, RN


The aim of this study was to explicate ways in which parents tell their adolescents about a parent's death. This study used a descriptive, qualitative design. From a large hospice in northeastern Ohio, nine adolescent children and six surviving spouses of recently deceased hospice patients were recruited. Participants completed a demographic questionnaire and a semistructured individual interview. Thematic content analysis techniques were used to analyze the data. Surviving parents tell adolescents about the parent's death in ways that are intended to inform and ease the adolescents' distress. They engage in the process of disclosure in one of three ways: measured telling, matter-of-fact telling, and inconsistent telling. Findings from the current study are consistent with the ways parents told their children about an ill parent's life-threatening illness and imminent death. The findings support a framework that describes the processes of disclosure of a parent's illness, imminent death, and death to their adolescent children. Predeath findings about telling foreshadowed the postdeath findings. These results can be used to inform the development of interventions in which nurses and other health care professionals assist families with disclosure before and after death by tailoring strategies according to the family's communication style.