to deepen understanding of parental grief
to discover parental expectations of chaplaincy support and ritual
to understand the role of ritual in meeting parents' spiritual needs
to comprehend the importance of ritual content and the manner of its construction
to hear the significance for parents of chaplaincy involvement
to appreciate the impact ofthe immediate context in which ritual is shared
Semi-structured qualitative interviews were used to obtain in-depth parental
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
validating their grief and offering them a safe space in which to express feelings
helping to create memories which aided establishment of continuing bonds with
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 ofthose
present which affirmed a baby's uniqueness and enabled creation of a sacred time
and space. Chaplains acted as guides during the co-construction of ritual and offered
parents an attentive listening presence. A chaplain's way of being and relating was
key in meeting parental spiritual needs.
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.
The nurturing of a chaplain's humanity and spirituality is essential in caring for their
inner resources utilised in meeting parents' spiritual needs.