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Mothers' experience of social support following the death of a child


Hilkka Laakso Department of Nursing Science, FIN-33014 University of Tampere, Finland (tel.: + 358 32157804; fax: + 358 32156665; e-mail:


• This study aimed at analysing the grief and coping of mothers whose child had died under the age of 7 years. The paper describes the social support received as experienced by mothers.

• Data were collected using a survey (n=91) and interviews (n=50) with mothers who had lost their child at least 1 year previously. The questionnaire contained questions concerning background characteristics, the Hogan Grief Reaction Checklist and open-ended questions. Survey data were analysed using a two-way analysis of variance, Wilcoxon test, cross-tabulation and content analysis. Interview data were analysed using inductive content analysis.

• Findings showed that the spouse, children, grandparents, next of kin, friends and colleagues were the main sources of support.

• Support consisted of emotional support, informational and instrumental support, and consolation and caring. Informational support consisted of advice and guidance from the mother's own mother or fellow sufferers. Instrumental support consisted of assistance with practical issues. Negative support manifested itself in unwarranted interference by relatives in the family's affairs or breaking up of friendships.

• Mothers expected professional practitioners to provide honest information about the dying child's illness and practical arrangements after the child's death, and to keep up hope as long as the child was alive.

• The care facility was also expected to maintain contact with the family after the child's death.