Facing the loss of a parent – how is institutional support interiorised?


When a parent dies, children are dependent on support from outside the family. Based on bibliographical narratives of persons who lost a parent when they were adolescents, this study examines how they experienced the integration of institutional help in their lives.

Project description (completed research project)

The context of this project is interdisciplinary efforts to improve institutionalised support for dying processes in palliative care-oriented facilities such as hospices or hospitals. The focus of the study is not on the dying but on family members of the dying. The experience of losing a closest relative puts adolescents into a crisis situation - and one in which they often utilise support services. The question is: what effect do the support services subsequently have in the course of the adolescents’ lives? This question has been neglected in the research so far.


This study aims to fill a research gap. Twenty open-ended interviews will be conducted with persons who lost a parent to illness when they were adolescents. The recorded narratives will be analysed using a detailed linguistic analysis.


In coming years, the problems connected with support for family members of the dying will have increased urgency in palliative care-oriented institutions and in social policy. This study will produce the needed basic knowledge. The findings will be used in practice as decision-making bases for institutions. For adequate support of adolescents, it is important to understand what biographical significance this support can have. The expected results should inform the designing of the support programmes.

Original title

The habitual foundations of adolescents facing the loss of a parent – how is institutional support interiorized?

Project leader

  • Prof. Dr. Benno Schimmelmann, Universitätsklinik für Psychiatrie, Bern
  • Dr. Christoph Abderhalden, Universitäre Psychiatrische Dienste Bern, Abteilung Forschung/ Entwicklung Pflege und Pädagogik (verstorben im März 2013)
  • Dr. Caroline Grosser, Bern



Further information on this content


Dr. Caroline Grosser +41 31 311 03 93

Products of the project