Cause of death and the quest for meaning after the loss of a child Journal Article


Authors: Lichtenthal, W. G.; Neimeyer, R. A.; Currier, J. M.; Roberts, K.; Jordan, N.
Article Title: Cause of death and the quest for meaning after the loss of a child
Abstract: This study examined patterns of making meaning among 155 parents whose children died from a variety of violent and non-violent causes. Findings indicated 53% of violent loss survivors could not make sense of their loss, as compared to 32% of non-violent loss survivors. Overall, there was overlap in sense-making strategies across different causes of death, with many parents invoking spiritual and religious meanings and the cultivation of empathy for the suffering of others. Nonetheless, violent loss survivors described the imperfection of the world and brevity of life more frequently in their narrative responses than parents who lost a child to natural causes, who in turn were more likely to find benefit in the loss in terms of personal growth. Violent loss survivors--and especially those losing a child to homicide--also reported enhanced appreciation of life more frequently than survivors of non-violent losses, and surviving a child's suicide was specifically associated with a change in priorities in the sample. Findings are discussed in terms of common and distinctive themes in meaning making that clinicians may encounter when working with parental bereavement, and the implications these carry for finding spiritual and secular significance in a traumatic loss.
Keywords: child; middle aged; united states; comparative study; logistic models; risk factors; risk factor; cause of death; adaptive behavior; psychological aspect; adaptation, psychological; multicenter study; mental disease; mental disorders; statistical model; grief; parents; parent; violence; humans; human; male; female; article; southeastern united states
Journal Title: Death Studies
Volume: 37
Issue: 4
ISSN: 0748-1187
Publisher: Taylor & Francis Group  
Date Published: 2013-04-01
Start Page: 311
End Page: 342
Language: English
DOI: 10.1080/07481187.2012.673533
PUBMED: 24520890
PROVIDER: scopus
PMCID: PMC3929231
DOI/URL:
Notes: Export Date: 1 May 2014 -- Source: Scopus
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