Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Katherine C. Hall

Committee Members

Michael Burford, Jean C. Hemphill, Florence Weierbach


The rise in American pediatric death led to a shift in pediatric end-of-life care from focusing care only on the dying pediatric patient to include focus on the family. Most literature has focused only on mothers’ experiences or the combined experiences of mothers and fathers. Fathers’ experiences at their child’s end of life, as an individual phenomenon, is overlooked and ignored. Hence, significant knowledge gaps exist related to the repeated exclusion of fathers’ individual experiences. This study aimed to begin to fill this gap. Using the lens of Merleau-Ponty, this existential phenomenological study aimed to describe the lived experiences of fathers who have experienced their child’s end of life. Using an unstructured interview process, a total of eight fathers participated in one-on-one interviews via Zoom or telephone. Data analysis and interpretation was conducted using an iterative analytic process, whereby transcripts were read and examined line-by-line to identify figural themes against the ground. Merleau-Ponty’s existential grounds of time, body, others, intentionality, and perception are interwoven throughout fathers’ individual stories. The following four themes emerged: (a) “I done been through hell”, (b) “I felt helpless”, (c) “I’m a protector”, and (d) “Who is there to help me?”. Additionally, five subthemes describing fathers’ emotional pain, forgetfulness, and masculine inabilities emerged. Greater understanding of fathers’ lived experiences requires serious attention and more research is needed. There are implications that have the potential to impact nursing care and the creation of meaningful nursing interventions for fathers at their child’s end of life.

Document Type

Dissertation - embargo


Copyright by the authors.

Included in

Nursing Commons