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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A phenomenological study of parents’ experience following stillbirth or early infant death Thiessen, Janice G.


This study was designed to discover parents' experience following a stillbirth or early infant death. The conceptualization of the research problem was based on Kleinman's (1978) cultural system model which directed the researcher to elicit directly from clients their explanatory models, or their way of viewing the experience. The specific research questions were (1) How do couples perceive and interpret their experience following stillbirth or early infant death? and (2) How do couples view the social support they have received at the time of their infant's death? Six couples, who were recruited primarily from bereavement support groups, participated in the study. Each couple had experienced a stillbirth or early infant death between four months and four years prior to the study. Data were collected from the subjects with the use of unstructured interviews, allowing the experiences to unfold as they were perceived by the participants. Four main themes that evolved from the data were (1) anticipation of parenthood and the shattering of hopes with the death or knowledge of impending death of the infant; (2) a multidimensional personal grief experience; (3) an interpersonal grief exerience influenced by the social support of health care professionals, of friends and family and of the spouse; and (4) reflection and search for meaning in the experience. The discovery of couples' perceptions of their bereavement experience and their view of the support received will assist in enhancing the ability to provide more effective nursing care to bereaved families. Implications for nursing practice, research and education are delineated.

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