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Parental grief over a lifetime: Guidelines for outreach

Joan M. Arnold, PhD, RN, School of Nursing, The College of New Rochelle, 29 Castle Place, New Rochelle, NY 11545-2522, 914-654-5494, jarnoldphd@aol.com, Penelope Buschman Gemma, MS, RN, CS, FAAN, School of Nursing, Columbia University, 617 West 168th Street, New York City, NY 10032, 212-305-3199, prb3@columbia.edu, and Linda F. Cushman, PhD, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, Center for Population and Family Health, 60 Haven Avenue, B2, New York, NY 10032.

Families of children who have died constitute a vulnerable population by virtue of the magnitude of their profound loss and its effect upon each member and by the lack of services and supports commonly available in the community environment. A survey was designed specifically to measure grief over a lifetime in these parents whose children had died. A national sample of 74 respondents over a wide age range answered the mailed survey instrument and provided three forms of data: descriptive data about the respondents and the causes and circumstances of their children’s death; quantitative measures of their grief experience; and qualitative as well as open ended responses about their grief over a lifetime. Based upon these results, challenges to traditional assumptions about parental grief will be developed. A greater understanding of the significance of parental child death grief will be presented along with guidelines for reaching out to bereaved parents. The role of the nurse in outreach to grieving families, a truly vulnerable population will be detailed based on this reconceptualized view of grief as a lifelong experience. Strategies for outreach to families whose children have died regardless of cause, circumstances, or timing of the death will be presented for discussion.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Vulnerable Populations, Death

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Womens Issues

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA