'Bear one another's burdens'. An examination of the experiences of parents bereaved of a child through drug use, who volunteer to support other parents bereaved in a similar way. What meaning and significance do parents attach to the role and how do they support themselves?
AbstractAim: The purpose of this small-scale, heuristic qualitative study was to learn from the experiences of parents bereaved of a child through drug related causes. Specifically, it explored the meaning and significance they attach to the role of becoming peer supporters of others similarly bereaved. Method: This is a heuristic study in which semi-structured interviews were conducted with six participants who had all lost a child aged between eighteen and thirty. The findings were analysed using thematic analysis, a method described by Braun and Clarke (2006, 2014) which covers a spectrum of epistemological approaches, and is well-suited to the heuristic approach (Moustakas, 1990). The researcher, also a parent bereaved of a child through a drug overdose, is explicitly part of this work and uses her own experience, alongside those of the participants, to inform the work. Findings: There were four main themes highlighted by the researcher. Firstly, the devastating nature of the bereavement and the difficult grief process, encompassing disenfranchisement, shame, and stigma. Secondly, how the parents found support for themselves after their loss and gradually moved to becoming a supporter of others. Thirdly, the parents' reflections on the role of being a helper, both positive and negative. Fourthly, how they continue to support themselves in the role of a bereaved parent volunteer supporter. Conclusion: The work supports previous research suggesting this is a devastating form of bereavement which has been seldom studied. The findings endorse the necessity of meaning making and sense finding felt by many bereaved people, and the fact that finding meaning may be harder after a traumatic loss such as the ones represented here. The parents found meaning by maintaining a bond with their deceased child through their work, and connection by keeping company with others who had understanding of what they had suffered. The study illustrates aspects of posttraumatic growth, while emphasising that such a process is neither easy nor inevitable.
CitationSkinner, P. J. (2016). 'Bear one another's burdens'. An examination of the experiences of parents bereaved of a child through drug use, who volunteer to support other parents bereaved in a similar way. What meaning and significance do parents attach to the role and how do they support themselves? (Master's thesis). University of Chester, United Kingdom.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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