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Strength through adversity: Bereaved cancer carers' accounts of rewards and personal growth from caring

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 June 2009

W.K. Tim Wong
Gender, Culture, and Health Research Unit: PsyHealth, School of Psychology, University of Western Sydney, Australia
Jane Ussher*
Gender, Culture, and Health Research Unit: PsyHealth, School of Psychology, University of Western Sydney, Australia
Janette Perz
Gender, Culture, and Health Research Unit: PsyHealth, School of Psychology, University of Western Sydney, Australia
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Jane Ussher, Gender, Culture, and Health Research Unit: PsyHealth, School of Psychology, University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith South DC, New South Wales 1797, Australia. E-mail:



Many studies have identified negative and distressing consequences experienced by informal cancer carers, but less attention has been given to positive and beneficial aspects of caring. This qualitative study examined the positive aspects of caring as subjectively constructed by bereaved informal cancer carers, a group of individuals who are in a position to make sense of their caring experiences as a coherent whole.


Twenty-three bereaved informal cancer carers were interviewed, and their accounts were analyzed using a thematic analytical approach from a phenomenological perspective.


The participants were able to identify positive and beneficial aspects of caring. These included the discovery of personal strength, through adversity, acceptance, and necessity; the deepening of their relationship with the person for whom they cared; and personal growth through altered relationships with others and altered perspectives on living. Many participants gave accounts of focusing on these positive benefits when they reflected on their caring experiences.

Significance of results:

We concluded that benefit finding in the face of adverse events serves an important function in allowing individuals to incorporate difficult experiences into their worldview in a meaningful way, thus maintaining positive beliefs about the world. This has implications for the development of interventions for informal cancer carers and for those who are bereaved following caring.

Original Articles
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009

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