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Empowering Bereaved Parents Through the Development of a Comprehensive Bereavement Program

Journal title
Journal of pain and symptom management
Publication year
Snaman, J. M.; Kaye, E. C.; Levine, D. R.; Cochran, B.; Wilcox, R.; Sparrow, C. K.; Noyes, N.; Clark, L.; Avery, W.; Baker, J. N.

Parents who experience the loss of a child have unique and valuable insights into the grief journey and can help health care providers identify key components intrinsic to the development, implementation, and maintenance of a comprehensive bereavement program. The bereavement program at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was developed by pediatric palliative care experts in collaboration with bereaved parents to standardize and improve the institutional support provided to families around and after the death of a child. This article describes the components of a parent-derived bereavement program and presents early results on the effects of specific program components. The program, under the leadership of the bereavement coordinator, includes clinical and supportive interventions offered throughout the grief journey, parent-created bereavement support materials, and opportunities for parents and families to participate in research, quality improvement initiatives and educational interventions. Parents report that services and interventions provided through the bereavement program are beneficial to families after the death of their child. In addition, both health care providers and bereaved parents report that participation in educational interventions positively impacts their experiences as clinicians and parents, respectively. The innovative nature of this parent-driven, comprehensive bereavement program may serve as a paradigm for the development of bereavement programs in the fields of pediatrics, palliative oncology and hospice and palliative medicine.

Research abstracts