Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Coping Strategies Used by Parents to Deal with their Child's Death

They had a camera and they had pictures...Blue Baby Footprints
they had already taken his hand and feet prints...

Looking back we have not only our memories,
but some of the things...
those things are very important.

Parents of a NICU Baby Who Died

Coping with the end of a NICU infant's life is a very difficult situation for most parents; each family learns how to cope in their own way. The end-of-life experience with their infant can be made easier with support from family, friends and the hospital care providers.

In a study published in April 2007 in the Journal of Perinatology researchers surveyed parents and identify factors that were important to them in caring for their infant at the end of life. These were presented in a prior blog on "Factors Important to Parents at the End of their Infant's Life."

This study also identified various coping strategies that helped parents deal with their child's death. The strategies identified included:

  • Family Support
  • Keeping the Child's Memory Alive
  • Spirituality & Faith
  • Altruism - wanting to 'give back' to the hospital
  • Refocusing on Life - often on the other children
  • Validation of their Decision
  • Bereavement Support Groups
Additional Recommendations
The Parents who were interviewed were asked what would have made their end-of-life experience better with their infant. Their recommendations included:
  • Parents should always ask questions and stay informed.
  • Parents need to be vocal and stand by their decisions.
  • Be sure to keep siblings included.
  • Participate in the child's care as much as possible.

How a person gets through a difficult experience, such as the death of a child, depends a lot on what happened and how the experience was handled at the time by the hospital staff and by family.

Parents who utilize these coping strategies that were identified, although they live through an excruciatingly difficult experience, are generally able to cope with the death of a child.

Researchers' Conclusions:
Results of this study suggest that most parents are able to effectively cope with the death of their infant. These results are in contrast to other studies that have shown a higher rater of depression and PTSD in parents who had a child die.

Related Blog
Factors Important to Parents at the End of their Infant's Life.

Brosig CL, Pierucci RL, Kupst MJ, Leuthner SR. Infant end-of-life care: the parents' perspective.
Journal of Perinatology. Online Publication 19 April 2007.

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