THEMES AND ISSUES IN THE EXPERIENCE OF CHILD SURVIVOR FRIENDS
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This study was interested in the experience of adults who had been bereaved of close friends during childhood (aged 5-12 years). This was identified as an area that was both underresearched and of potential importance to mental health professionals. Six participants were recruited through newspaper articles and requests placed in G.P. surgeries. All of the participants met with the researcher for an open-ended, unstructured interview lasting between 1 and 11/2 hours. The interviews were explored using the qualitative approach of 'Interpretative Phenomenologjcal Analysis'. Several themes and issues emerged as important in the experience of child survivor friends. These themes were related to one another in a conceptual map. The analysis showed that child survivor friends could, and did, respond in ways that are typically associated with grief They were also shown to be particularly vuhierable to traumatic stress responses, which may have impacted upon the resolution of their grief The survivor friends had also maintained continuing bonds with the deceased that were present at the time of the interview. There was also a tendency to remain without a close friend for some time after the bereavement. Being a child survivor friend was shown to impact upon the development of understanding the universality of death, it was also identified as a possible risk factor for depression. The reactions of adults (i.e. parents and teachers) to the survivor fiiends was also found to be important. They tended to disenfranchise the grief of the participants as children. This was found to be detrimental to their ability to cope with the loss. This study recommended that the grief of future child survivor friends is acknowledged, franchised and supported. These findings were interpreted and related to current theories of grief and attachment. The clinical implications of these results were discussed. The limitations of this study were acknowledged and avenues for future research highlighted. The conceptual map developed from this research supports the 'dual processing model' of grief (Stroebe, 1994) with elements of Moss' and 'restoration' orientation in the responses of survivor friends, with oscillation between the two over time.
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