Parents of terminally ill children tend to hide stress from their spouses
The study conducted by psychologists at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) through interviews, revealed parents tend to defer discussing their psychological pain with their spouses to protect them from emotional distress. The parents’ preference to support each other in pragmatic and solution-oriented ways such as discussing treatment options, arranging care plans and sharing caregiving responsibilities.
Informed by the research findings and supported by the Singapore Millennium Foundation Research Grant, lead author Associate Professor Andy Ho Hau Yan from the Psychology division at the NTU School of Social Sciences, and his Ph.D. student, Oindrila Dutta, developed a therapist-facilitated online therapy app known as Narrative e-Writing Intervention (NeW-I) to help parents whose children are in need of palliative care.
Supported by Singapore’s Ministry of Education Academic Research Fund and working closely with HCA Hospice Care's paediatric palliative programme Star PALS, the Children’s Cancer Foundation, and Club Rainbow (Singapore), the NTU-led research team conducted 1 to 1½-hour long in-depth interviews with 20 family units who had lost their child to a terminal or chronic life-threatening illness.
In the interviews, the research team observed that after the death of their child, the way that the parents interacted with each other changed, and they described giving each other space to grieve, before engaging in honest and in-depth sharing of their thoughts and emotions surrounding their child’s death, and the meaningful memories of the life that had been lived, say the authors.