Design: Cross-sectional qualitative study.
Data sources: Interviews with purposeful sample of 25 recently bereaved parents.
Methods: Semi-structured in-depth interviews.
Results: Four analytically distinct processes were identified in the responses of parents to the death of a child. These are referred to as 'piloting', 'providing', 'protecting' and 'preserving'. Regardless of individual circumstances, these processes were integral to all parents' coping, enabling an active 'doing' for their child and family throughout the trajectory of their child's illness and into bereavement.
Conclusions: Facilitating the capacity of parents to 'do' is central to coping with the stress and uncertainty of living through the death of a child. The provision of informational, instrumental and emotional support by health care professionals in the context of 'doing' is core to quality palliative care.
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