UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Stories of loss and change : six mothers’ experiences of parenting an adult child with a mental illness Wiens, Sandra Ellen


A qualitative narrative research method was used to explore and describe the experiences of personal growth and change of six mothers of adult children with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder who volunteered to participate in this study. A total of twenty-eight semi-structured interviews (average four per participant), were conducted over a period of two years. The research question was: How do parents of adult children with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder experience personal growth and change as they live with the challenges and uncertainties associated with their child's mental illness? Individual, co-constructed first person narratives of each participant's mothering experiences were written following an in-depth, holistic-content analysis of the interview data. A cross-narrative analysis was also conducted which resulted in four common themes (Enduring sadness and loss, Distress and struggle, Commitment to helping/action, Personal and relational change); four significant threads (What will happen when I am no longer able to care for my child?, Impact on siblings who are well, Fluctuations in hope, Regret/Guilt); and four broader dimensions (New normal mothering, Changes in mothering over time, Involvement in the mental health system, Adaptation and engagement with life in new and meaningful ways). These findings were found to be best understood through the conceptual lens of nonfinite loss – reflecting the ongoing challenges and lifetime implications of this mothering experience. Implications for theory, research and counselling psychology practice are addressed, based on these findings.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


CC0 1.0 Universal