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From caregiving to bereavement : weaving the strands of identity : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Social Work at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
“In what ways does the experience of caregiving for a terminally ill family member affect the experience and process of bereavement?”
The identity of family caregivers in palliative care has been ambiguous: caregivers are often unaware they fit the description of ‘carer’. Previous research describes two contrasting constructs that shape the identity of the caregiver: burden and privilege. Research, including this study, suggests that the emergence of identity as a carer impacts on the course and experience of bereavement. Two semi – structured interviews were conducted with a small number of caregiving family members: during the caregiving role and in their subsequent bereavement. This exploratory study used phenomenological research to examine the experiences of those caregivers interviewed. The data were examined using the existential themes uncovered in analysis. This paper reports on those themes.