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Journal of Aging Research
Volume 2011, Article ID 105985, 7 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.4061/2011/105985
Research Article

End of Life: A Family Narrative

1Behavioral Research Institute, Arcadia University, 450 South Easton Road, Glenside, PA 19038, USA
2Department of Sociology and Anthropology and Center for Aging Studies, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD 21250, USA

Received 19 October 2010; Accepted 16 March 2011

Academic Editor: Laraine Winter

Copyright © 2011 Helen K. Black et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

This paper is based on ethnographic research that examines family reaction to an elderly husband and father's end of life. From a group of 30 families in our study (family defined as a widow aged 70 and over and two adult biological children between the ages of 40 and 60), we offer an extreme case example of family bereavement. We report our findings through the open-ended responses of a widow and two children who were interviewed ten months after the death of the husband and father. Three general themes emerged: (1) how the family imputes meaning to the end of life, (2) changes in the roles of family members, and (3) the family's ways of coping with the death, particularly through their belief system. A key finding is that the meaning family members find in their loved one's death is tied to the context of his death (how and where he died), their perception of his quality of life as a whole, and their philosophical, religious, and spiritual beliefs about life, death, and the afterlife that are already in place.