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Crying in Solitude or With Someone for Support and Consolation-Experiences From Family Members in Palliative Home Care

Rydé, Kerstin MPH, RN; Strang, Peter MD, PhD; Friedrichsen, Maria PhD, SRN

doi: 10.1097/01.NCC.0000305758.66238.a1

Crying has not been studied from the perspective of family members of patients in palliative care. The aim of this study was to explore the significance of family members crying in a palliative care context with special reference to factors that influence crying. Interviews were carried out with 14 family members of patients admitted to palliative care. A hermeneutic approach according to Gadamer was used. Three main categories emerged. (1) Before the start of crying, some prerequisites for crying had to be fulfilled, such as an allowing attitude and courage, time, feeling secure, honesty, and trusting relationships. These prerequisites did not cause crying themselves; rather crying emerged when triggering factors occurred. (2) Triggers for crying were circumstances that created uncertainty and turbulence (bad news), exhaustion due to lack of own time, and sympathy from others. (3) Family members tried to do the best possible by adopting or hiding their crying, to ease the patient's burden and to create a positive counterbalance to suffering and grief. As an interpretation of the whole, crying could be expressed as being shared with someone for support and consolation or escape to solitude for integrity and respite. As a conclusion, crying may be an efficient strategy for family members in palliative care to express their suffering and to gain new energy to continue.

Authors' Affiliations: Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Faculty of Health Sciences, Campus Norrköping, Linköping University, Norrköping (Ms Rydé); Karolinska Institutet, FoUU, Stockholm (Dr Strang); and Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Faculty of Health Sciences, Campus Norrköping, University of Linköping, and Palliative Education and Research Center, Unit of Palliative Home Care, Vrinnevi Hospital, Norrköping (Dr Friedrichsen), Sweden.

This study was supported by grants from the Swedish Cancer Foundation and the Cancer and Traffic Injury Fund.

Corresponding author: Kerstin Rydé, MPH, RN, Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Faculty of Health Sciences, Linköping University, Campus Norrköping, SE 601 74 Norrköping, Sweden (

Accepted for publication December 13, 2007.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.