Widower Responses to the Death of a Wife: The Impact on Family Members

Patricia N. Rushton, RN, PhD

Disclosures

Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing eJournal. 2007;7(2) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Background: Widowhood and widowerhood are major life transitions for many adults. Literature examining perception of the widower response and the impact of that response on surviving children is scarce. Further examination of children's perception of their father's response to their mother's death and the impact of that response upon them would be valuable. The objective of this study was to gain better understanding of the adult child's perception of the widower response and the impact of that response in surviving adult children. To do that, the researchers examined the lived experiences of widowers and their adult children.
Methods: In a qualitative descriptive study, a convenience sample of 14 widowers and 17 adult children participated in an independent, audio-taped, face-to-face interview. The only prerequisites for participation in the study were to be a widower and have an adult child who was willing to participate. A single question, as appropriate for qualitative inquiry, was asked to guide the discussion with the widower and his children. Confidentiality was maintained by interviewing participants separately and by not associating the participants' identity with results. Interviews were analyzed for content and common themes.
Findings: Demographics of the study group demonstrated a wide variety of widower, adult child, and spouse ages and causes of spousal death. Five common themes were identified: (1) Factors that assisted or might have assisted the widower in dealing with the loss of his spouse, (2) saying goodbye to the deceased wife, (3) losses, (4) remarriage, and (5) relationships with children.
Conclusions: Findings demonstrated that loneliness was a powerful motivator for remarriage in the widower population. Also, children (usually the oldest daughter) moved into the role of managing the home and could face abandonment with the father's remarriage.

Widowhood and widowerhood are major life transitions for adults, and the time following a wife's death is uniquely difficult. Existing literature describes the adjustment and its perception by surviving children.[1] However, literature examining perception of the widower response and the impact of that response on surviving children is scarce. Further examination of the children's perception and the impact upon them would be valuable. Such knowledge could help widowers and their surviving adult children anticipate and understand widower grief behavior. Such knowledge might also assist healthcare providers in counseling grieving widowers and their children. In an effort to gain a better understanding of the perception and impact of the widower response in surviving children, this study examines the lived experiences of widowers and their adult children.

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