Date of Conferral







Sandra Caramela-Miller


In studies, grief due to the loss of a child is recognized as a complex process, one whose trajectory is influenced by a variety of factors. One factor, the age of the child at the time of death, may be an important influence in the trajectory of grief. The purpose of this interpretive phenomenological study was to explore the experiences of loss for 15 bereaved mothers and fathers whose children suddenly died between the ages of 2 and 12 years. This age range was selected to explore bereavement in parents of young and preteen children because they may feel a greater sense of daily care and responsibility for the safety of their children in comparison to bereaved mothers and fathers of older children or adults. The psychosocial transition theory was used to develop the research questions, which framed the exploration of the experiences and adaptive responses of the parent participants. There were 15 recorded semistructured interviews from which the data were collected. The transcribed data were validated with member checking. Data analysis was completed using open and hierarchical coding to identify meanings and recurrent themes in the participant narratives. Recurrent themes included that grieving was emotional and physical for these parents, and that grief made it difficult for them to do everyday tasks or care for surviving children. Mothers and fathers identified viewing their world as less safe and experienced a reevaluation or complete abandonment of their spiritual beliefs. Implications for positive social change include increasing social awareness in the general public about grief due to child death and challenging unrealistic expectations of grief trajectory. Furthermore, the findings of this study may be used by mental health professionals to create interventions specific to this type of loss.