Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Being a Constant Presence in a Sea of Change: The Lived Experience of Vigil Keeping for a Family Member at End of Life
by Fleming-Damon, Colleen, Ph.D., Adelphi University, 2019, 296; 27733362
Abstract (Summary)

An end-of-life vigil is the act of being with another towards death. A family vigil is a phenomenon that occurs when one or more significant others gather by the bedside of a family member in the weeks, days, or hours prior to death. There is a scarcity of research with specific focus on end-of-life vigil keeping, yet it is not unusual for nurses who minister to the dying to be present, bear witness, and share in this human experience. In contrast, representations of vigil in the arts and humanities are ubiquitous. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore form, structure and meaning of the lived experience of vigil keeping for a dying family member at the end of life, using hermeneutic phenomenology as methodology. In-depth semi-structured interviews with 14 individuals who kept vigil were transcribed, analyzed and interpreted using van Manen's process of hermeneutic analysis. Study participants defined the experience as "With awareness of approaching death and liminality of time, an end-of-life vigil is being with another during the transition from life to death."

Study findings revealed that end-of-life vigils have a tripartite structure of experience: The first, is a pre-vigil period with emergent theme of a time of gathering and subthemes of death awareness, death notification, and coming to a vigil; the second, a vigil period with theme of a time of communion, and subthemes of fluctuating thoughts, sea of emotions, and intimacy of caring behaviors,ยท and the third, a post-vigil period with theme of a time of transition, and subthemes of a time of loss, time after loss; and a time of change. The overarching theme of keeping vigil with a dying family member was described as "being a constant presence in a sea of change." In second interviews, participants revealed they found comfort in the memory of their vigil.

These findings were then situated within existing knowledge by comparison-contrast with research findings across the disciplines of nursing, anthropology, psychology, sociology, and thanatology. This study illuminates the vigil keeping phenomenon and provides new knowledge regarding structure, meaning, and complexities of this human experience. This knowledge contributes to nursing science and offers implications and recommendations for future nursing research, education, and practice to enhance care for dying individuals and their families.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Donohue-Porter, Patricia
Commitee: Baumann, Steven L., Valas, Joan, Joyce, Patricia
School: Adelphi University
Department: Nursing
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 81/6(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Nursing, Health sciences, Individual & family studies
Keywords: Vigils, Transitions, End of life care
Publication Number: 27733362
ISBN: 9781392398524
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