Background: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) has been shown to reduce psychological distress in cancer patients but not their partners. Whether MBSR can support patients and partners in coping with the dying and grieving process is less well examined.
Aim: We aimed to gain more insight in the role of mindfulness in the dying and grieving process from the perspective of the partner after the patient's death.
Design: As part of a pilot study or subsequent randomized controlled trial, partners had participated together with the patient in MBSR. After the patient's death partners were invited for qualitative in-depth interviews. Data from the interviews was analyzed using the grounded theory approach.
Setting/participants: Interviews were conducted with 11 partners in their homes, on average 11 months after the patient's death (SD = 7.8).
Results: Mindfulness helped couples to allow and regulate difficult thoughts and feelings, which in turn helped them to accept the patient's impending death. It also facilitated them to enjoy things together and communicate more openly. For a few couples, however, participation was physically too burdensome or emotionally too confrontational. During the partners' grieving process, mindfulness helped allowing difficult thoughts and feelings, and taking the time to grieve, which helped them to take good care of themselves, giving them faith in the future.
Conclusion: The present study showed that MBSR can facilitate lung cancer patients and their partners in accepting the forthcoming death and openly communicating about this, which can support a peaceful death and healthy grieving process.
Keywords: Attitudes to death; grief; lung neoplasms; mindfulness; qualitative research; spouses.