Single Fathers Due to Cancer
  UNC Cancer Care

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Our mission is to help single fathers due to cancer cope with the loss of their wife or partner, meet the demands of sole parenthood, and manage their children's grief.

Our interest in single fathers due to cancer began several years ago through our clinical work with cancer patients at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We provide psychosocial support for patients and their families and had worked closely with several mothers who had advanced cancer. Among the concerns of these gravely ill women was how their husbands and children would manage after they died. We then looked for services for surviving husbands to help them adjust to single parenthood in the midst of their grief. To our surprise, we found no programs created specifically for fathers whose spouses died from cancer. Furthermore, we found very little clinical or research attention had been paid to the challenges facing these men.

We then met with several fathers whose wives had been treated at our hospital in order to learn about their experiences and challenges. Hearing of their struggles inspired us to start a support group specifically for single fathers due to cancer. Our first meeting was held in the fall of 2010 and we have met monthly ever since. Nearly all the men who attended that first meeting remain involved in the group today. The fathers say that their participation in the group has helped them realize that they are not alone as they adjust to being "both Mom and Dad" and provided them with important insights and emotional stability during difficult moments. At the same time, the fathers have taught us about their shared experiences and the challenges of being a sole parent following the death of a spouse.

The success of the support group, along with the lack of resources available to the thousands of young families coping with the loss of a mother and wife or partner, motivated us to make a broader commitment to serve these families.

Our long-term goal is to develop and disseminate a standardized approach to help single fathers whose wives or partners died from cancer. In order to create a treatment that best meets the needs of these men, we must first learn more about their experiences and the nature of the challenges they face. Thus, through collaboration with the fathers in our support group, we have developed a survey that can be accessed through this website. Our hope is that information gathered through this survey will ultimately help us craft specific treatment approaches.