Wendy G. Lichtenthal , PhD, FT 1 , 2 , Kailey E. Roberts , PhD 1 , Corinne Catarozoli , PhD 2 , Elizabeth Schofield , MPH 1 , Jason M. Holland , PhD 3 , Justin J. Fogarty , BA 1 , Taylor C. Coats , MA 1 , Lamia P. Barakat , PhD 5 , Justin N. Baker , MD 4 , Tara M. Brinkman , PhD 4 , Robert A. Neimeyer , PhD 6 , Holly G. Prigerson , PhD 2 , Talia Zaider , PhD 1 , 2 , William Breitbart , MD 1 , 2 , Lori Wiener , PhD 7
05 February 2020
Prior research has demonstrated that the presence of regret and unfinished business is associated with poorer adjustment in bereavement. Though there is a growing literature on these constructs among caregivers of adult patients, the literature on regret and unfinished business in bereaved parents has been limited.
The aim of this study was to examine regret and unfinished business in parents bereaved by cancer, as well as their associations with caregiving experiences and prolonged grief.
This was a cross-sectional mixed methods study that utilized self-report questionnaires with open-ended items.
The multisite study took place at a tertiary cancer hospital and paediatric cancer clinical research institution. Participants were 118 parents (mothers = 82, fathers = 36) who lost a child aged 6 months to 25 years to cancer between 6 months and 6 years prior.
Results showed that 73% of parents endorsed regret and 33% endorsed unfinished business, both of which were more common among mothers than fathers ( p≤.05). Parents were on average moderately distressed by their regrets and unfinished business, and both regret-related and unfinished business-related distress were associated with distress while caregiving and prolonged grief symptoms.
Findings have implications for how providers work with families, including increasing treatment decision-making support, supporting parents in speaking to their child about illness, and, in bereavement, validating choices made. Grief interventions that use cognitive-behavioral and meaning-centered approaches may be particularly beneficial.