National Center for Effective Mental Halth Consultation First Candle National Center for Cultural Competence Georgetown Center for Child and Human Development

Module 2Why do we care? The pain can last a lifetime:
What the research tells us

The idea that parents will “get over” this loss does not fit in with what we have learned from parents and from researchers.

Mothers are particularly hard hit by the loss and may experience distress, depression and anxiety for some time. Fathers experience the pain in a different way than mothers in many instances. Current research can give us a glimpse of what congregants may be experiencing.

There is a need for support that goes beyond the immediate response to the family, because the pain continues. This distress does not necessarily mean that the parents have a diagnosable mental health disorder, but they may need support and intervention to manage the intense impact of the loss.

At the same time, supportive pastors and congregants help families who do need more intensive mental health support to feel comfortable to seek these services. (See Module 7) Some research studies report that:

  • Among women who experience miscarriage:
    • 40% report symptoms of grief in weeks following a miscarriage
    • Up to 50% have elevated levels of anxiety and depression in the weeks and months after the loss
    • Symptoms can continue for 6 months to a year and possibly longer
  • In families that experience stillbirth, death of a newborn or sudden unexpected infant death:
    • Mothers had significantly more symptoms of anxiety and depression at 2 and 8 months after the loss; fathers had elevated symptoms at 2 months - compared with parents who had not experienced a loss
    • Bereaved mothers had higher rates of psychological distress than mothers who had not experienced a loss for at least 30 months
    • Women who had a fetal or infant loss had a threefold increase risk for suicide attempts
    • Fathers may develop post traumatic stress disorder after a stillbirth
    • Over a 30 month period after the loss of an infant, bereaved fathers showed significantly more alcohol use than fathers who had not experienced a loss

(Badenhorst, Hughes and Wing, 2007; Badenhorst, et al, 2006; Schiff and Grossman, 2006;Boyle, et al, 1996; Lok and Neugebauer, 2007; Vance, et al, 1995).

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