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The loss of a child: the long term impact upon the parent-child bond

By Bill Merrington


Research has been carried out from a psychological perspective, to examine the effects of bereavement in families when they have experienced the loss of a baby, child, teenager or young adult. This has involved interviewing parents in Lebanon, Tanzania and Uganda. The results were then compared to previous research carried out by the author in England (For a M.Phil. in Theology titled, ‘Bereavement in Families who have lost Babies, Children and Teenagers; An Empirical and Theological Study’. Birmingham University , 1995). Using the collective data, the theory of Shadow Grief is investigated in terms of whether it is a genuine condition within bereaved parents, as compared to other grief reactions such as chronic grief, disenfranchised grief or pathological grief.\ud \ud It was found that the bond between a parent and child was a particularly deep rooted affectionate bond. There are similarities between this bond and Bowlby’s concept of attachment theory. Parents from the English sample showed some signs of maintaining a bond with the deceased many years after the loss. This was seen to a lesser extent in the African context. This requires further research to clarify this effect both in the English culture and cross-culturally, looking at a broader section of communities where child loss had taken place. Grief therapists need to be more aware of the long lasting effects that the loss of a child has upon a parent, especially those who are bereaved of older children

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