Bereaved Parents’ Health Status During the First 6 Months After Their Child’s Death

Nancy Dias, Debra Brandon, Joan E. Haase, Paula Tanabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


Purpose: To examine bereaved parents’ physical, mental, and social health during the first 6 months after their child’s (<12 years) death from a life-threatening illness. Background and Significance: Bereaved parents have higher mortality and morbidity rates when compared to nonbereaved parents. Acute illnesses, hospitalizations, and medication changes are highest in the first 6 months. An understanding of bereaved parents’ health risk indicators can help inform development of health promotion and disease prevention measures. Methods and Analysis: A prospective descriptive study examined 8 parent dyads. Parents completed health surveys (Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System–global, social, and sleep; Brief Symptom Inventory [BSI] 18), which are used to assess parents’ health at 3 and 6 months after their child’s death. Demographic data included a medical history, hospital or emergency department visits, and smoking and alcohol intake. Descriptive statistics were used to compare parents’ scores to US general population scores. Findings: Mothers’ and fathers’ physical, mental, and sleep health scores were typically within 1 to 2 standard deviations of the population norms. However, their social health scores were as low as 3 standard deviations and all parents’ scores were below population norms. Four (25%) of the 16 parents had new diagnosis during the first 6 months. Based on the BSI-18, 3 parents had their scores above population cutoffs, which warranted a need for further clinical evaluation. Conclusions: Health data highlight the “at-risk” health status of bereaved parents. Further validation of these data is required to support the development of health promotion and disease prevention programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)829-839
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


  • bereaved parents
  • bereavement programs
  • child’s death
  • health outcomes
  • health status
  • palliative and end-of-life
  • parental bereavement
  • pediatric bereavement care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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