Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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A Voyage of Grief and Beauty: a Phenomenological Study of the Experience of Supporting a Family Member with an Intellectual Disability Who is Dying in a Community Setting

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posted on 2021-11-03, 07:46 authored by Marlow, Susan Anne

This thesis reports on a research project which explored the phenomenon of supporting a family member with an intellectual disability who is dying in a community setting. The research purpose was to enhance professional understanding of what it is like to encounter this lived experience. Literature back-grounding the phenomenon and philosophical and theoretical constructs embraced by the researcher are outlined. An explanation is given of the hermeneutic phenomenological methodology which was utilised.  The main method of collecting research data was through conducting five open-ended interviews with participants who had supported a dying child or sibling. The participants’ family members were aged between 3 and 52 years old at the time of their deaths. Their specific intellectual disabilities included Down syndrome, a metabolically induced disorder and a non-identified syndrome. The family members had died from a variety of terminal illnesses and in a range of community settings.  Interpretive analysis was achieved through reflexive journaling and hermeneutic intuiting of interview transcripts and field notes. The research findings have been subjected to rhetorical consideration in the light of further literature and poetic texts. Research findings are expressed metaphorically as groups of boulders representing themes and sub-themes. Three major themes were revealed as having impacted on the river voyage shared by participants and their dying family members. These were Interlocked Companionship, Search for New Balance and Permeable Interaction.  An assessment is offered of the strengths and weaknesses of the research project. The thesis concludes with recommendations for reflective practice, evidence based practice, service development and areas of future research.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Arts (Applied)

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Graduate School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health


Martin, Margi