The Lived Experience of Mothers Who Have Lost Their Children As A Result of Homicide

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1 The Lived Experience of Mothers Who Have Lost Their Children As A Result of Homicide 1

2 Lived experience involves the world of everyday life as lived by the individual It is the individual s perception and meaning of the event (Giorgi, 1985) The description of the lived experience of mothers who lost their children due to homicide is the first step in providing relevant information to further develop an understanding of experience 2

3 To provide a description of the lived experience of mothers whose children died as a result of homicide 3

4 Credibility Transferability Dependability Confirmability 4

5 Qualitative phenomenological approach as described by Giorgi 5

6 All of the audiotapes were transcribed before the data analysis was initiated utilizing Giorgi s four-step method Description Reduction Essences Intentionality 6

7 Description of Ann Ann was 72 years old at the time of the interview, married and living in the same community for more than thirty years, in a single dwelling home. Ann grew up as Methodist, but at the time of the interview did not find spirituality important in a formal sense. Although she remains married, she describes her relationship with her husband as distant following the death of their daughter. Ann described staying married very difficult after her daughter s death. She was Caucasian and described her status as middle socioeconomic, which remained unchanged following her daughter s death. She is retired. She was the mother of two children, the eldest was her daughter and she has two sons. She was a high school graduate with a post secondary ancillary health degree. Following the death of her daughter she has experienced several health issues: hypertension, thyroid disease, depression, weight loss, headaches and stomaches. She took several medications for her heart condition and hypertension. She described her daughter as.a very, very loving child. She summarized the death of her daughter as a terrible loss that nobody can, nobody can understand it unless they ve gone through it themselves. It s just impossible. Her daughter was deceased 10 years at the time of the interview. Ann s daughter was 25 years old at the time of her death. 7

8 Selected Data from the Interview with Ann Structural Constituents Expressed in Participant s Own Language Constituents of Description Expressed more Directly in the Language of Social Psychology and Nursing with Respect to the Relevancy of the Phenomenon of the Lived Experience of Mothers Who Lost a Child as a Result of Homicide Ann I didn t pray for an awful long time. I couldn t because I had prayed for my kids, their safety, well being, my patience and this and that and the other thing. You know? I felt like I had been betrayed. Like somebody said, Well, He (God) didn t put her where she was and that s true He (God) didn t. But, He (God) could have brought her home to me. I think... For Ann there was a sense of not feeling protected, secure, or safe as a result of her prayers to God. She felt her prayers were not answered because He (God) did not keep her daughter safe. She had prayed for her safety many times and God failed to keep his agreement. He (the police sergeant) came down here and searched her car. The car sat out here that whole time. He wanted to take the cassette out of the car and he didn t know how to eject it so he broke it.,,they wanted her things, they tried to make her out to be a bad girl. Now these were the police, these were supposedly on our side.he was the worse part of my experience with the whole thing, truthfully The justice system stinks.you can t imagine what they put us through.. Prior to her daughter s murder, Ann s view of the police was as a protector and that police were trustworthy. 8

9 Specific Description of Situated Structure of the Lived Experience of Mothers (Ann) Who Have Lost Their Children as a Result of Homicide Ann lost her daughter as a result of homicide. She was very close to her daughter. Ann described the death of her daughter as the worst thing that ever happened. She felt betrayed by God, the police and abandoned by friends, and acquaintances. She described feeling the presence of her daughter with her after her death. She attributed her ability to accept her daughter s death to the presence of her daughter around her and the support of people who had similar experiences regarding homicide. For Ann, moving forward involved not only taking care of herself but also helping other women who lost their child as a result of homicide. 9

10 Field Notes During Interview with Ann The interview with Ann occurred in her home in the kitchen area. The interview lasted two hours. Her husband was home but did not participate in the interview. He remained in another room and did not attempt to greet the researcher before or after the interview. The setting was comfortable for Ann and the researcher. Ann signed the consent form after reading the entire document. She required no further clarification of the consent form or the intent of the study. She completed the demographic data sheet without questions. Throughout the interview, Ann maintained eye contact. She remained comfortably seated on a chair. She answered the questions, sometimes pausing to consider her responses or adding additional comments. The tape recorder did not appear to distract her from the interview process. There were no distractions in terms of phone calls or interruptions from other people during the interview. At times, Ann became tearful when talking about her daughter. She also expressed resentment regarding how the investigation was conducted, particularly since it took more than three years. She was committed to the interview in the hope that the death of her daughter and her participation in the study could help create necessary changes in the system for mothers who experience the homicide of their child in the future. 10

11 Theme I: Betrayal Betrayal is often interpreted to mean not having one s needs met, a sense of violation, a feeling of being used and damaged, a lack of ability to trust others and a change in sensibility toward the world (Rodger, 2000, p.72). The mothers in the study provided several examples of how their needs were not adequately met: God did not ensure the safety of their child, someone murdered their child; people did not provide necessary support, and professionals whose responsibilities included providing care were negligent. 11

12 Betrayal: Ann I felt like I had been betrayed (by God). Like somebody said, Well, he didn t put her where she was and that s true, he didn t. But, he could have brought her home to me The justice system stinks You can t imagine what they put us through they tried to make her out to be a bad girl. Now these were the police, they were supposedly on our side 12

13 Theme 2: Abandonment Mothers reported lack of support and protection following the death of their child. The experience of homicide produced a sense of helplessness in the mothers and further increased their sense of powerlessness over what happened to their child and their own present and future state of wellbeing. 13

14 Ann It s the worst thing that could possible happen You just can t comprehend it. It feels like they tore your heart right out of your chest. And you have that pain at least a year That pain in your chest just doesn t go away. You wake up in the middle of the night; the first thing in your mind is her... 14

15 Theme 3: Acceptance Several of the participants described coming to terms with the death of their child as the worst thing ever. The first year following the death of their child was the most difficult for many of the mothers since they were overwhelmed by emotions. This first year of unimaginable grief also offered sporadic and unexpectedly relieving episodes of revelation regarding the events that led to the death of their child. Knowing the details surrounding their child s death facilitated ultimate acceptance. 15

16 Ann That s were you get most of your comfort from being around people who have had the same experience. They know exactly how you feel. And, if you want to cry, they ll cry right along with you But anyhow, I m not that way anymore...i try to pray (now), but I find myself praying to her more than I pray to God. 16

17 Theme 4: Moving Forward Mothers described the need to fulfill the various responsibilities life continued to present despite their ongoing struggles to cope with unimaginable loss. This included responding to the needs of others as well as allowing others to respond to their needs. Responding to the needs of others provided a means of connecting to their own sense of self and well-being and, in some way, to their child. This sense of connection and support was sustaining to the participants. Mothers also identified helpful steps to move forward. 17

18 Fran I think it is important to maintain a sense of humor we ve been able to get through a lot of things with laughter some people think that you re crazy, how can you laugh? But sometimes how can you not? And I think getting involved with the group has been a tremendous help try to get up and get out of the house for crying out loud, take a bath, change our clothes I looked down on myself one day about six months after she died and I said, how long have I been wearing these clothes? and I said to my daughter, I hate to ask you this, but do you remember the last time I took a shower? it was a week and a day later never dawned on me that I was not taking care of try to cook for yourself, try to remember to eat.things that are helpful is to pray ask God to help you just get through the day try to think about pleasant things the positive things that helped me was to allow myself to cry...i think it was like the monster of grief was in there and it was like a big thing with tentacles coming out of it and it was just grabbing on to all parts of me. And I would wake up in the morning and come out here and sit down and the tears would start..i ve cried before. I cried when she first died. I cried for a long time after she died, then I stopped crying for a while. And then I started again a little while back, and then I sobbed. It just kind of comes and goes.i went to the grave this time, I mean, people probably heard me, but I just let it go. And I made noise, I let it go, I howled in grief, about the senselessness of it I came away from that feeling better You know, tears have a poison release thing there that helps 18

19 Examine impact of social demographic differences Explore relational aspects among victim, perpetrator, and survivors Investigate possible linear sequence of responses Consider potential nursing theories to serve as a foundation to strengthen interventions 19

20 Watson s framework (1979, 1999, 2006) Context of caring consciousness Foundation of faith & hope Creates opportunities for nurses to help mothers feel cared for and to deepen their belief system Nurses need to be authentically present 20

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