Parental identity in narratives of grief following perinatal death

Jones, Kerry (2016). Parental identity in narratives of grief following perinatal death. In: The British Association for Applied Linguistics Science and Communication Conference, 25 Nov 2016, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.


For decades several researchers have demonstrated that the death of a child following perinatal death is both devastating and enduring with parents experiencing depression, anxiety, PTSD (O’Leary, 2009) and often struggle with a profound sense of guilt and purposelessness if reproductive success is considered a critical part of the life course. For many parents these may represent a death of part of the self as well as that of the child.

To put perinatal death into context 1 in every 200 babies is stillborn and one in every 300 dies in the first few weeks of life making death at or around the time of birth the most common form of mortality in early life (Office for National Statistics, 2013; Redshawe et al, 2014).

Yet, several outcomes from studies with bereaved parents that compared to child death in later years, perinatal death is not recognised as an event that is tragic or worthy of mourning and is otherwise referred to as an invisible death (Cacciatore, 2010; Kelley, 2011).

Perinatal death can challenge parental expectations concerning both motherhood and fatherhood since the discourse that surrounds pregnancy and childbirth frames such experiences in a positive light and fails to acknowledge those experiences in which pregnancies and birth end in a way that many had unanticipated.

Several researchers have focused on how this changes identity and a sense of self. As with parents, these deaths represent a disruption to the life course of siblings and other family members such as grandparents (Jones, 2014; Murphy, 2014).

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