Bereavement Needs of Adults, Children, and Families After Cancer

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Many families and close friends are experiencing bereavement due to cancer. A review of recent studies of bereavement outcomes, mainly elevated psychological distress, suggests that bereaved family members, compared with nonbereaved, have poorer quality of life. They display high levels of complicated grief, anxiety, and depression and use bereavement services, but also report finding meaning in the loss, during the first 6 months after death. Similar demographic (e.g., female sex and younger age) and psychological (e.g., premorbid mental health conditions and lack of preparedness for the death) predictors are related to the bereavement outcomes across different familial groups. However, the severity of psychological distress and bereavement needs expressed vary by familial groups. Unrelieved pain and anxiety of the patient before the death and family members being unprepared for the impending death appear to be related to several postdeath psychological and physical morbidities of the surviving family members. Although the number of articles addressing bereavement-related issues associated with cancer has been growing in recent years, more rigorous studies that use longitudinal prospective designs, which bridge cancer survivorship with bereavement research, are needed.

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