BackgroundPalliative care is in its infancy in most of the developing world. We set out to explore the lived experiences of families and caregivers of recently deceased cancer patients in Trinidad and Tobago and to determine the unmet needs of the patients and what recommendations could be derived to improve the current services.MethodsA phenomenological approach with purposeful sampling was used. Participants were referred by key health professionals. Face-to-face interviews were conducted. Interviews were transcribed verbatim, with analysis and data collection occurring concurrently. Thematic content analysis was used to determine common domains, themes and sub-themes.ResultsInterviews were completed with 15 caregivers. All were spouses or children of the deceased. Ages of the deceased ranged from 43 to 93, the average being 65.5 years. The deceased experienced a variety of cancers including lung, colorectal and oesophageal.Unmet needs were identified under 4 domains of institutions, community, the family unit and the wider society. Institutional unmet needs were delayed diagnosis and treatment and poor inter-institution coordination. Medical and nursing care failed in the areas of health care providers’ attitudes, pain management and communication. The family unit lacked physical and psychosocial support for the caregiver and financial aid for the family unit. Societal needs were for public education to address myths and cultural beliefs around cancer.ConclusionThere is need for systemic interventions to improve the care of those dying from cancer in Trinidad and Tobago. Stakeholders need to commit to palliative care as a public health priority, implementing education, planning services and mobilizing community resources.