"Living in the dragon's shadow" fathers' experiences of a child's life-limiting illness

Death Stud. 2004 Mar;28(2):111-35. doi: 10.1080/07481180490254501.


Grounded theory methods were used to study the experiences of 8 bereaved fathers whose children received care in a home-based hospice program. In-depth, unstructured interviews were audiotaped, transcribed, and coded for themes and categories. Every aspect of fathers' lives was affected by their experiences, which were described in metaphoric terms as living in a dragon's shadow. Fathers dealt with life in the dragon's shadow by battling the dragon (the illness)--the core social process. Battling was a conscious, active, continuous process that required strength, willpower, and work. Battling occurred within the context of fathers' experiences with fathering and fatherhood and was characterized by 3 aspects: battling with uncertainty, battling with responsibility, and battling with everyday disruption. Fathers were assisted by supportive work environments and by supportive relationships with health care providers. Unsatisfactory relationships with medical personnel compounded fathers' battling with life in the dragon's shadow.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Bereavement*
  • Child*
  • Chronic Disease / psychology*
  • Father-Child Relations
  • Fathers / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Social Support
  • Terminally Ill / psychology*
  • Uncertainty