The influence of relationships on the meaning making process: Patients’ perspectives

Danetta Hendricks Sloan, Karlynn Brintzenhofeszoc, Erin Mistretta, M. Jennifer Cheng, Ann Berger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: The diagnosis of a chronic or life limiting illness followed by treatment often requires an adjustment to life goals and expectations. With added existential concerns, patients’ struggle to redefine life meaning while also finding ways to alleviate any distress that may occur. Central to the work of many scholars, meaning making is thought to be a vital component of negotiating traumatic life events while also essential to the positive adjustment in chronic illness and healing. Information gained from science about meaning making is an important link to the medical community as it provides physicians with insight to increase patient centered care. The purpose of this qualitative study was to expand our understanding of meaning making for an individual diagnosed with a chronic or life limiting illness. Also, to explore the connection, if any, to how meaning making may lead to an outcome of psychosocial spiritual healing or exacerbate distress. Methods: The goal of this secondary data analysis was to examine the influences of meaning making to determine its impact on a patient’s sense of healing. This study utilized data collected during in-person interviews using a convenience sample of 30 palliative care patients. The original study was conducted at three different locations: the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (NIH), a large research institution in Bethesda, Maryland; Johns Hopkins Suburban Hospital, a community hospital in Bethesda, Maryland; and Mobile Medical Care (Mobile Med), a community clinic located in Rockville, Maryland. A total of 56 potential participants were approached based on convenience sampling with 30 participants enrolled (54%). Results: The overall theme that emerged indicated a strong emphasis on meaning making through relationships, specifically an increase of meaning in family relationships, the connection to friends, and a change in compassion towards others. Conclusions: Further investigation is needed to explore relationships as a variable in finding meaning during life limiting illness among patients, loved ones and their physicians. It is clear that developing meaning is a central mechanism to the construct of healing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-226
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Palliative Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Healing
  • Meaning making
  • Palliative care
  • Psychosocial spiritual

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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