Healing the Hearts of Bereaved Parents: Impact of Legacy Artwork on Grief in Pediatric Oncology

Academic Article


  • Context: Approximately 12% of children with cancer will not survive, representing a devastating loss for parents. Strategies to improve parental coping and grief have been understudied. Although legacy-making is frequently offered as standard care to children with terminal illness and their families, these interventions have received little empirical attention. Objectives: This study qualitatively explores the legacy-making and grief experiences of bereaved parents who participated in legacy artwork with their child before his or her death from cancer. Methods: Twelve bereaved parents and 12 healthcare providers participated in individual semistructured interviews guided by the Dual Process Model of Grief and Continuing Bonds theory. Qualitative data were analyzed via conventional content analysis. Results: Five themes emerged. Legacy artwork allows for family bonding and opens communication regarding the child's impending death; provides opportunities for parents to engage in life review and meaning-making; is often displayed in the parents' home after the child's death, and parents take comfort in using these projects to continue their bond with their deceased child; can ameliorate parents' grief after their child's death; and may reduce healthcare providers' compassion fatigue and provide them an outlet for coping with their patients' deaths. Conclusion: Participating in legacy artwork may result in self-reported positive outcomes for bereaved parents before and after their child's death, including family bonding, enhanced communication, meaning-making, and improvements in grief. As a result of these benefits, children's hospitals may consider offering legacy artwork for children with cancer and their families.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Schaefer MR; Wagoner ST; Young ME; Madan-Swain A; Barnett M; Gray WN
  • Start Page

  • 790
  • End Page

  • 800
  • Volume

  • 60
  • Issue

  • 4