Loss experiences of spouses after dying of terminally ill patients at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital

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Russarin Sathianphattharanan
Peeraphon Lueboonthavatchai
Pennapha Dangdomyouth


Background : Spouses of the terminally ill may experience many psychological reactions, and have to cope with losses.

Objectives : To study the loss experiences, coping with loss, and social support of spouses after the death of terminally ill patients.

Design : Qualitative study.

Setting : King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital.

Materials and Methods : Both male and female spouses of terminally ill patients were recruited into the study from Cheewabhibaln Palliative Care Center at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital by using purposive sampling. The spouses were living and giving care to the patients - for at least 6 months until the death of the patients. Sixty - to - ninety - minute in-depth interview was used in this study. Instruments in this study were:

1) Demographic data form and questions for in-depth interview; and

2) Inventory of complicated Grief (ICG). The data was saturated at 10 participants. Data analysis was performed by using Colaizzi’s method.

Results : There were 10 spouses of terminally ill patients: 7 females and 3 males. The average age was 50.2 years. Six spouses (60%) of the terminally ill patients experienced complicated grief by ICG. Loss experiences of the terminally ill’s spouses were not different from other close relatives’ losses. The psychological reactions were composed of 3 phases:

1) numbness;

2) depression; and

3) recovery. The spouses with complicated grief were those who had very close relationship or overly dependent to the dead person, the truth concealed, the sudden or unexpected loss, or unprepared loss. Spouses who resolved grief were those with adaptive coping with loss, and adequate social support.

Conclusion : Helping the spouses of the terminally ill to deal with losses should implement both before and after the death of the patient. Preparing the spouses to experience the losses, cope with losses, and gain adequate social support may help them to resolve the grief after the death of terminal patients.

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Modern Medicine