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Title: The role of ritual and its co-construction in the spiritual care, provided by chaplains, of parents adjusting to the death of their baby in-utero
Author: Kelly, Ewan R.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2005
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Semi-structured qualitative interviews were used to obtain in-depth parental reflections. Four main spiritual themes were identified from parents’ descriptions of their grief - social isolation, loss of meaning and purpose, loss of control and a loss of self worth. Parents’ expectations of chaplains and rituals they performed were anxiety inducing. The process of ritualising their baby’s life and death enabled parents’ spiritual needs to be met by: aiding deeper communication within families and wider social reintegration; providing an opportunity to find meaning and purpose through parenting; helping parents to regain some control, order and sense of reality in their situation; validating their grief and offering them a safe space in which to express feelings; and helping to create memories which aided establishment of continuing bonds with their baby. Co-authoring their baby’s ritual with a chaplain enabled parental affirmation and personalisation of rituals. Whilst relevant words spoken during ritual were appreciated it was being able to act out their relationship with their baby and the chaplain’s performance which were of most significance. Parents requested chaplaincy involvement because they perceived them to have ritual authority and enhance ritual efficacy. They perceived chaplains to have both priestly and shamanistic roles during rituals, creating an atmosphere in which families could express or act out their feelings as required. Contextually, of significance was the reverential attitude and approach of those present which affirmed a baby’s uniqueness and enabled creation of a sacred time and space. Baby death in-utero causes considerable parental spiritual distress. Ritual and its co-construction helps to meet spiritual needs and facilitates grieving. Chaplains have a distinctive role to play as part of a healthcare team addressing parents’ holistic needs.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available