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How mothers experience personal growth after a perinatal loss

Thomadaki, Olga (2012). How mothers experience personal growth after a perinatal loss. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


In the UK, babies are considered stillborn when they are born dead after the 24th week of gestation. Death within the first four weeks of life is defined as a neonatal death. Both stillbirths and neonatal deaths comprise perinatal deaths. This type of bereavement constitutes a traumatic loss and although there is a plethora of research focusing on the resulting parental psychopathology, research on adaptive grief resolution and posttraumatic growth is scarce. Qualitative methodologies exploring perinatal bereavement and posttraumatic growth from a perspective of counselling psychology are absent in the literature although repeatedly invited by theorists. To date, only one quantitative study has explored the phenomenon of posttraumatic growth on bereaved parents after a perinatal loss (Büchi, et al., 2007). Moreover, the available qualitative literature on bereaved mothers after a perinatal loss is conducted by disciplines other than psychology and has largely focused on birth, hospital practices, burial ceremonies and the initial grief reactions. Thus, this project aims to address psychology’s relative neglect of the topic by exploring qualitatively “How mothers experience personal growth after a perinatal loss”. The research methodology employed was Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Eight semi-structured interviews with women who had lost their firstborn baby perinatally were conducted. The analysis revealed four super-ordinate themes; the first and the second mainly present the traumatic quality of this type of bereavement and the multiple losses involved. The third super-ordinate theme presents all the coping mechanisms that were activated by participants in order to work through their loss; while the fourth presents the positive changes that came as a consequence of the experience and their efforts to psychologically survive that loss. The research findings suggest that following this traumatic loss mothers, struggling with distress and anguish, can also experience positive transformations. The possible role of counselling psychologists and psychotherapists in this journey of personal positive transformation of bereaved mothers is explored.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
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