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Scand J Caring Sci. 2004 Sep;18(3):264-72.

The progression of suffering implies alleviated suffering.

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Department of Care and Welfare, Faculty of Health Sciences at Linköping University, Campus Norrköping, Sweden.


There is a lack of research focusing directly on both patients' suffering and alleviated suffering in relation to care. The aim of this paper was to investigate the progression of suffering in relation to the encounter between the suffering person and the caregiver from the perspective of an understanding of life. The progression of suffering is assumed to be an existential 'sign' of the development of understanding of life as an ontological or spiritual entity, which demands a meaning-creating encounter between the patient and caregiver. The concept 'existential caring encounter' was used to describe how the encounter between patient and caregiver can create meaning in communion and thereby alleviate suffering by making it bearable. The study was carried out using an interpretive, hermeneutic approach. The study as a whole comprises three parts, and these include letter-writing and interviews. The findings are described by the following main theses: (a) a darkness in life understanding is existentially experienced as unbearable suffering and requires an encounter involving attentive care and confrontation; (b) the turning point means that the struggle of suffering begins; and (c) the encounter involves being meaning-creating in a communion in the struggle of suffering. An understanding of the patterns of unbearable and bearable suffering can be of help to the caregiver in caring for the patient by serving as a basis for meaning-creation in communion. This may thereby be a way of alleviating the patient's suffering by making it bearable during the progression of suffering.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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