Experiences of Bereaved Family Members Receiving Commemorative Paintings
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Importance: Although family members of patients who die in the intensive care unit commonly experience long-term psychological distress, end-of-life bereavement support programs for such relatives are uncommon. Whether art influences the grief experience of families is largely unexplored. Objective: To explore the influence of personalized paintings created to honor deceased critically ill patients on family members' bereavement experience. Design, Setting, and Participants: A qualitative descriptive analysis was conducted of semistructured interviews of grieving relatives who received a painting after the death of their loved one. The deceased patients were from a 21-bed medical-surgical intensive care unit. Eleven families were invited to receive a painting, of whom 1 family declined. A total of 22 family members of 10 patients who died in the intensive care unit were interviewed in the study between July 11, 2017, and May 19, 2019. Interventions: Patients were enrolled in an end-of-life care program that elicits and implements wishes of patients and their families to bring peace during the dying process. Selected families of 10 decedents were invited to receive a painting to honor their loved one 1 to 10 months after the patient's death. Using details about the patient's life story, the artist created individualized paintings to commemorate each patient. Main Outcomes and Measures: The experiences of family members receiving a personalized painting and its reported influence on their grieving experience. Results: The family members of 10 decedents (mean [SD] age, 60  years; 5 women [50%]; 8 White patients [80%]) were interviewed. The central theme of art to facilitate healing was illustrated through the following domains: the cocreation process, painting narratives, postmortem connections, and legacy. The process of cocreating the paintings with the artist and family members involved reminiscing, storytelling, and creativity. Family members emphasized the role of art to facilitate healing, exemplified through connections with images portrayed that deeply resonated with memories of their loved one. Participants indicated that the paintings validated that the patient was remembered, helped families feel less alone during a time of grief, honored the loved one's life, and enhanced connections between family members and clinicians. Conclusions and Relevance: This qualitative study's findings suggest that the creation of personalized paintings commemorating the lives of patients may help foster legacy and postmortem connections with clinicians and may help family members in their healing process.
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