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An interpretative phenomenological analysis of anticipatory grief: getting stuck between the problems of the present and the future

Ünal, Eli
Theories of grief primarily focus on post-loss experiences. However, contrary to widespread belief, a similar intensity of grief can be initiated by the expectation of a loss as much as the loss itself. The term anticipatory grief has been used to describe this phenomenon. Anticipatory grief involves cognitive, affective, social, and cultural reactions to the expected death, and ways of coping with these reactions. The primary purpose of this thesis was to investigate the anticipatory grief experiences of adult children whose parents were diagnosed with a terminal illness. The focus of the study is on gaining an in-depth understanding of these individuals’ experiences. Hence, a qualitative research strategy was preferred in order to understand both the subjective experiences and culture-specific dynamics related to anticipatory grief. Purposive sampling resulted in five female, young adult children of terminally-ill cancer patients. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with each of the five participants, and these interviews were analyzed through Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. According to the results of analysis, seven themes were formed, namely ‘death as the loss of the relationship’, ‘focusing on the present rather than thinking about the post-lost period’, ‘sacrificing self for the sake of the health of parent’, ‘symptoms as signs of repressed emotion’, ‘search for meaning out of the impending death’, ‘growth out of suffering’, and ‘need for support from others’. The results of the current study were discussed in the light of the associated literature, and clinical implications driven from these results were stated..