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Keywords:

  • maternal grief;
  • death of a child;
  • grief work;
  • development of grief counselling skills

Mothers’ grief following the death of a child

Aim of the study. Research has shown that caring for a dying child is among the hardest and more demanding tasks in nursing, because the staff are forced to manage their heavy work with inadequate skills and experience. This article deals with the findings of a recent study, the purpose of which was to analyse the mother’s grief and coping with grief following the death of a child under the age of 7 years.

Design. Data were collected from mothers using a survey (n=91) and an interview (n=50). As the topic was very sensitive ethically and emotionally, survey data were collected first and the mothers were asked to give their consent to taking part in an interview. The study employed both quantitative and qualitative methods. The data were analysed using statistical methods and content analysis. However, only the qualitative part of the study is presented in this article.

Findings. The findings show that nursing staff had skills to support grieving mothers, but that there were many feelings and experiences of grief that remained unidentified by staff. The staff’s ability to meet the mothers’ individual needs while the child was in hospital and after the child’s death was inadequate. The information received from staff was perceived to be insufficient or offensive to mothers.

Conclusions. The development of basic and further education and of various support measures would enable the staff to better cope with their work. Focusing on interactive skills and meeting the patient’s individual needs using reflective practice would improve the quality of care. Communication and collaboration between different occupational groups should be promoted, because mothers were dissatisfied with dissemination of information, and ambiguous responsibilities between different occupational groups hampered the acquisition of information.