“Someone to hold the hand over me”: The significance of transpersonal “attachment” relationships of Danish cancer survivors

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    The aim of this article is to present findings about self-reported spirituality of a group of Danish cancer survivors. The findings derive from a qualitative study that was carried out during rehabilitation week courses at a Danish rehabilitation centre. Methods comprised participant observation, semi-structured interviews and focus group interviews. Employing interpretative phenomenological analysis as analytical strategy, a prominent part of the informants' self-reported spirituality was found to centre around a perceived sense of relatedness to a transpersonal entity that transcends the self and extends beyond spatial-temporal boundaries. Three transpersonal entities were identified: 'God', a 'guardian angel' and a 'deceased family member'. The key findings of the study demonstrate that the transpersonal entities were experienced as empowering and supportive resources during cancer treatment and rehabilitation and that they were furthermore perceived as responsible for the informants' healing and survival. These findings are interpreted through the lenses of two interrelated theoretical frameworks: Hay and Nye's approach to spirituality as 'relational consciousness' and Kirkpatrick and colleagues' understanding of religion and/or spirituality as attachment relationships. These two theoretical understandings are suggested as useful frameworks for capturing spiritual dimensions of cancer survivors' meaning making and coping in a secular society.

    Original languageEnglish
    JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer Care
    Issue number6
    Pages (from-to)726-737
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


    • Attachment to God theory
    • Cancer rehabilitation
    • Psychological well-being
    • Qualitative research
    • Spirituality


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