Intergenerational responses to the death of a child Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/d791sj72g

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  • The death of a child is a traumatic family event. This qualitative study examined the experiences of parents and grandparents in 10 families who had lost a baby to SIDS, stillbirth, or birth defects. Key questions focused on support given and received, meanings attributed to the loss, continuing bonds, and adaptation. Significant family support was present in all families, but unskilled support was common. As expected, most support flowed from grandparents to parents. Relationships with maternal grandparents were particularly strong, especially those of mothers and adult daughters. Ambivalence was present in several intergenerational dyads. Meaning making was an important process, particularly for parents, and included making sense of what had happened and finding benefit from tragedy. Fewer grandparents than parents found benefit. Parents and many grandparents maintained continuing bonds with their babies through rituals or symbolic representations. These methods of connecting facilitated communication within some families. Participants were classified as adaptors, partial adaptors, in transition, or distressed. Parent adaptors were further in time since death than those in the transition and distressed groups, appeared more aware of support received, were tolerant of unskilled support, did not focus on the why of loss, experienced personal growth, and had integrated their deceased children into their sense of self No clear patterns emerged for grandparents, although they seemed to feel their adult children were coping well. Partial adaptor parents were similar to adaptors in time since loss, but experienced lingering distress. They were more likely to be asking why and to express feelings of vulnerability. Partial adaptor grandparents were concerned about their adult children's continuing suffering. Parents and grandparents in transition were close in time to loss and felt distress. At the same time, they were optimistic and were experiencing positive emotions as well as feelings of sadness. They were reappraising their experiences and finding benefit. Distressed group members had very high levels of distress and were isolated from those in their social network, either through their own actions or through unskilled support. They connected to their babies mostly through feelings of sadness, they ruminated on why, and they did not identify benefit.
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