Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Parental grief, Parents of terminally ill children-Religious life, Spirituality, Children-Death-Psychological aspects, Bereavement-Religious aspects, Psychotherapy-Religious aspects, Bereavement, Terminal illness, Child death


This study sought to better understand bereaved parents' spirituality following the death of a child due to terminal illness. While previous research has looked at the role of spirituality following the death of a child, study populations have been predominantly female, Caucasian, and Christian. A goal of this study was to explore this issue among a more diverse population, in terms of religion, gender and ethnicity. The researcher met with and provided recruitment flyers to representatives of interfaith organizations, parent support groups, and local hospices. Additional recruitment included a snowball method utilizing acquaintances and colleagues of the researcher. Eleven individuals, including eight women and three men, participated in face-to-face, telephone, or Skype audiorecorded interviews. Participant modal age range was 61-70, with an average of 13 years having passed since their loss. The semi-structured interview elicited participants' conceptualization of spirituality and their perceptions regarding the role that spirituality played in their lives, how their spirituality changed, how their family made use of spirituality, and how spirituality impacted significant relationships after their child's death. Findings indicate the centrality of spirituality as a tool for coping with the loss of a child, the enduring nature of a parents' bereavement, and the diverse nature of supportive relationships that change after the death of a child. In addition to pointing to challenges in recruiting a religiously and ethnically diverse sample, study findings highlight for care professionals the potential benefits of incorporating spirituality into therapeutic interventions for bereaved parents




iv, 68 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, 2013. Includes bibliographical references (p. 51-55)