‘My life's properly beginning’: young people with a terminally ill parent talk about the future

Nicola Turner

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1 Citation (Scopus)


This paper explores how young people who are living with a parent who is dying talk about the future. Drawing on a qualitative, interview study, I argue that young people are able to move imaginatively beyond the death of a parent, and in doing so, to maintain a sense of biographical continuity. While thinking about the future, most were able to generate an alternative to the ‘harm story’ typically associated with parental loss. Furthermore, the facility to engage with parental absence in the present enabled young people to make sense of living with dying, and gave meaning to their imagined futures. These findings suggest that young people's narratives of the future may act as a symbolic resource to draw on, albeit one requiring adequate material and social resources to construct. The paper extends the notion of continuing bonds derived from post‐bereavement accounts to suggest that relational experiences of the dead begin prior to bereavement, and may facilitate everyday living in anticipation of significant loss. Enabling young people to imaginatively explore the future may support them in getting by when they are living in these difficult family circumstances.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1171-1183
Number of pages12
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2020


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