Valuable Informal Bereavement Support Strategies for Bereaved Parents of Stillborn, Young Children, and Adult Children: A Scoping Review

Kimberly L. Schoonover, Larry Prokop, Maria I. Lapid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Informal support of a bereaved parent is common after the loss of a child (stillborn, young or adult child); however, it is not clear which aspects of informal support were perceived to be helpful by the bereaved parent. The aim of this scoping review is to clarify from the standpoint of bereaved parents what are considered helpful and unhelpful characteristics of informal support given by the support network of bereaved parents. Methods: A comprehensive search of databases from 2000 to April 20, 2020 was conducted for clinical studies published in English on informal bereavement support of adult bereaved parents of stillborn to adult children; 52 articles met criteria for the scoping review. The databases included Ovid MEDLINE(R) and Epub Ahead of Print, In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations, and Daily, Ovid EMBASE, Ovid Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Ovid Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Ovid PsycINFO, and Scopus. Results: Specific supportive strategies reported by parents as helpful more frequently included talking with other supportive persons felt to be supportive, meeting another person with a similar type of loss, and a loss-specific peer support group. Other support included peer support groups in general, tangible aid, talking with the spouse about the child who died and/or accepting each other's different grieving styles, and remembrance gestures. Specific supportive strategies reported by parents as unhelpful more frequently included feeling of stigma or blame due to type of death or feeling that the type of death was not considered equal to other deaths and platitudes & insensitive comments. Other unhelpful support included talking with others felt to be unsupportive about discussing the loss, others stating a time limit to grief, others actively avoiding or stopping all communication with the bereaved parent, and one spouse not accepting the grieving style of the other or the spouse not willing to discuss the loss. Conclusion: Support focused on supportive verbal and nonverbal communication towards the bereaved parent and tangible aid were noted to be helpful informal support. Feeling stigma for or judged by others due to the type of death or the death not being considered equal (such as in deaths due to suicide and stillborn deaths) to other types of deaths as well as informational support (utilization of clichés/platitudes, advice giving, statements about the process and end point of grieving) were noted to be unhelpful informal support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of palliative care
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • bereavement
  • child death
  • informal support
  • parent

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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