When a baby dies: Ambiguity and stillbirth

Joanne Cacciatore, John Defrain, Kara L C Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

39 Scopus citations

Abstract

Stillbirth, or sudden intrauterine death, is in many ways an invisible death. A stillborn infant is one mature enough developmentally to have lived outside the womb but for some reason, or perhaps multiple reasons, was born dead. Stillborn infants are often demarcated from other types of child death and are rarely legitimized as a real loss. When a baby is stillborn, mothers, fathers, surviving siblings, and grandparents may struggle for years to find answers to a series of complex and inherently unanswerable questions. The family members' profound feelings of grief and ambiguity loss are borne in a social environment that denies this reality because the child's death was invisible to most of the world. Boss's framework for understanding ambiguous loss proves quite helpful in thinking about stillbirth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)439-454
Number of pages16
JournalMarriage and Family Review
Volume44
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 14 2008

Keywords

  • Ambiguous loss
  • Bereavement
  • Boundary ambiguity
  • Infant death
  • Stillbirth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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