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Title: Ritual, pastoral presence, and character virtues in healthcare chaplaincy : a study of chaplains' support to bereaved parents following the in utero or neonatal death of their baby
Author: Newitt, Mark Julian
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis sets out to understand better how chaplains can support bereaved parents following the death of their baby. Running parallel to this, with increasing demand for evidence-based practice, it aims to evidence the benefit of chaplaincy support and the unique skills of chaplains. The thesis is based on twelve semi-structured interviews with sixteen parents. These were analysed using a form of grounded theory and compared with the findings of related research. I argue that the root of all other spiritual need is the loss of control parents experienced. Alongside this theme I identify a loss of meaning, a loss of self worth, and a desire to do something in response to their loss. Although there is not a one size fits all response, the liturgy and ritual provided by chaplains helped counter spiritual distress. I propose that, alongside the ability to perform liturgy and ritual, chaplains are viewed as having authority in both religious and spiritual matters. As liturgy and ritual was appreciated in conjunction with the presence of the chaplain, I explore a virtue-based approach to chaplaincy and recommend the increased use of shadowing and mentoring. Drawing on Fowler’s Stages of Faith, I describe how some parents found greater religious faith or increased spiritual awareness as a result of their experience. I speculate that, in order to provide the best possible support to parents, chaplains need to exhibit the characteristics of Fowler’s stage 5. Chaplains have a richness of reflection and experience and I appeal to churches to engage more profoundly with them. I also recommend the continued employment of chaplains within hospitals and argue for the narrative voice to be valued in research. Contra to current NICE guidelines, I contend that parents should be offered the opportunity to see and hold their dead baby.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Th.M.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available