An exploration of the emotional support needs of grandparents whose grandchild has had a childhood cancer diagnosis
AuthorsHill, Lynda A.
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AbstractLittle research has been conducted relating to the psychological impact on grandparents of grandchildren with cancer despite evidence to suggest that this can be challenging (Wakefield et al., 2014). This research explores the lived experiences of grandparents whose grandchild has had a childhood cancer diagnosis, taking specific interest in narrative relating to symptoms of distress, coping mechanisms, perceived emotional support needs, potential barriers to support and signs of post-traumatic growth. The impact of COVID-19 is also examined. Twelve grandparents were interviewed using semi-structured questions. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, an approach that is understood via examination of meanings people impress upon their experience. Five Group Experiential Themes are presented: role; impact; coping strategies and support needs; barriers to emotional support and lastly, hope, followed by their respective Personal Experiential Themes. Grandparents, without question, resume their parental role as their adult children retreat towards their childhood ‘nest’ to be protected and cared for. They also change their ‘hat’ to that of ‘parent’ to siblings of their poorly grandchild. This becomes a dominant role, often without warning, impacting greatly on their normal routine. Their own suffering is intentionally suppressed to give full attention to their child and family. Grandparents struggle to articulate their own needs as they automatically place themselves second. However, when pushed, there is a sense of wishing to be acknowledged as taking an active, primary care-giving role within their family, together with permission to process their own emotions in a way that suits their needs. A grandchild’s childhood cancer diagnosis can lead to signs of traumatic stress for grandparents. Yet they suppress their emotional support needs as their ‘parental nest’ is temporarily filled again. It is suggested that cancer support services work with parents to ensure that grandparents are also included in support-offers as a matter of course.
CitationHill, L. A. (2023). An exploration of the emotional support needs of grandparents whose grandchild has had a childhood cancer diagnosis [Unpublished doctoral thesis]. University of Chester.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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