Spiritual lives of children with cancer: A qualitative descriptive study in Lithuania

Published:November 17, 2022DOI:


      • The views on spirituality related to children age, gender, and family composition.
      • Staff, family and friends were essential for a semblance of normalcy in daily life.
      • Sick children demonstrated emotional protective behavior toward their families.
      • The use of prayer and relationship with God was more abstract for children.



      To explore the experience and perception of spiritual lives of children with cancer.

      Design and methods

      A qualitative descriptive study included the collection of narratives on spiritual lives of children drawn from two university hospitals in Lithuania in the form of a semi-structured face-to-face interviews. Purposive sample of twenty-seven hospitalized children (5–12 y.) with non-terminal stage of cancer participated in the study.


      The final four themes emerged from across all the questions as: being normal, community, comfort and connections with God.


      Children with cancer needed to maintain as normal a life as posssible, despite being ill and undergoing treatment. Connections with family and friends were echoed in all the themes that emerged in the study. Children seemed to own their views about needing to pray or not; their needs revolved around asking for health and remission of their illness. Children diagnosed with cancer have a unique understanding of spirituality that is linked to their age, gender, and family composition. These ideas change as children develop and mature.

      Practical implications

      The need to explore the spiritual lives of children with life threatening illnesses from an early age is evident. Health professionals need to recognize that a child is the product of their family, their community, their culture and their spirituality. Conversations with children about what God means to them and how prayer supports them, is essential. The opinion that spirituality topic might be hardly understood or too sensitive to children is rejected by the researchers.


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