Couples' communication before the wife's death to cancer and the widower's feelings of guilt or regret after the loss - A population-based investigation

Junmei Miao Jonasson, Arna Hauksdóttir, Szilard Nemes, Pamela J. Surkan, Unnur Valdimarsdóttir, Erik Onelöv, Gunnar Steineck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Aim: To investigate the association between couples' communication before the wife's death to cancer and the widower's feelings of guilt and regret after the loss, in a population-based data. Methods: Men (n = 907) younger than 80 years and living in Sweden, who had lost their wives due to cancer, were asked 4-5 years after their loss to answer an anonymous postal questionnaire it included questions about the couple's end-of-life communication during the last 3 months of life and the widower's feelings of guilt or regret during the first 6 months after the wife's death. Results: During the last 3 months of their wives' lives, men who had not talked about the impending death with their wives had a higher risk of experiencing feelings of guilt than men who did talk (relative risk (RR) 2.0, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.2-3.4). Men who were not able to spend as much time as they wished with their wives had an increase in the risk of having feelings of guilt twice that of men who spent time (RR 2.0 95% CI 1.5-2.7). Men who did not talk with their wives about how they could cope practically or emotionally after the death had elevated risks of guilt feelings compared with men who talked (RR 1.8, 95% CI 1.0-3.0; RR 1.7, 95% CI 1.0-2.9, respectively). Men who realised it was too late to discuss the impending death had an increased risk of guilt feelings (RR 4.3, 95% CI 2.9-6.6). Men who thought that not everything had been brought to closure before their wives' deaths had 3.3 times increased risk of guilt feeling (RR 3.3, 95% CI 1.7-6.4). Conclusions: A man who does not have end-of-life discussions with his wife during the last 3 months before her death from cancer may be subject to a significantly greater risk of experiencing feelings of guilt or regret in widowhood than men who did engage in such discussions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1564-1570
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer
Volume47
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2011

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Keywords

  • Bereavement
  • Cancer
  • End-of-life communication
  • Guilt feelings
  • Regret

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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