The Use of Religious and Spiritual Coping Strategies by Parents after a Child's ICU Death

Tuesday, 10 November 2015: 10:20 AM

Dawn Marie Hawthorne, PhD, MSN, BSN, RN
Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, Florida Atlantic university, Boca Raton, FL, USA


The death of a child is unimaginable since most parents expect not to outlive their children.  Stress created by this traumatic event disrupts parent’s emotional and social world and causes severe and prolonged mental distress. In response to grief, parents may choose to use spiritual coping strategies to cope with their loss. Little is known about the types of spiritual strategies used and whether these strategies are effective over time


The purpose of this study is to identify the relationship between spiritual and religious coping strategies parents used one month (T1) following their child’s death in the ICU and the impact on parent’s grief, mental health and personal growth at three months (T2).


A convenience sample of 108 mothers and 49 fathers completed the Spiritual Coping strategies scale, Hogan Grief Reaction Checklist, Beck Depression Inventory II, and Impact of Events Scale-Revised questionnaires at T1 and T2. Pearson correlation coefficient was used to identify if a relationship exists between the independent variable at T1 and dependent variables at T2.


Mothers greater use of spiritual coping strategies (finding meaning and purpose in the situation, seeing the positive side of life, living day by day and accepting current life situation) and fathers greater use of spiritual coping strategies (maintaining friendship and confiding in friends, discussing the difficulties) at T1resulted in lower levels of grief, symptoms of mental health and experience personal growth at T2 after the death of their child. Bereaved parents use of religious coping at T1 was only effective in greater personal growth at T2.


 Spiritual coping strategies used at T1helped parents cope with their grief, maintain their mental health, and experience personal growth through 3 months after their child’s death. Use of religious coping strategies was only related to personal growth.

These research findings are beneficial for health care personnel in providing support and anticipatory guidance to bereaved families in their early grief. While religious strategies might be helpful in increasing personal growth, use of spiritual strategies may be more helpful to parents over time.