Grieving the loss of a child in times of COVID-19


Grieving the loss of a child in times of COVID-19


Hooghe A; Claeys A; Thompson B; Neimeyer RA; Rober P



Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice




Bereavement; Parents; Family Members; Couples; Grief; COVID-19; Pandemics; Child Loss


Given the massive influences of COVID-19 restrictions on people in nearly all nations, we conducted an in-depth qualitative study of 15 Belgian parents who had lost a child prior to the pandemic in order to understand its impact on their ongoing bereavement. Analysis of focus group sessions and couples interviews distinguished between experiences related to the pandemic and those related to resulting governmental restrictions (e.g., lockdown, social distancing). We theoretically framed our findings in terms of the dual processes of orienting to loss versus restoring life, reconstructing meaning in bereavement, and relationally attuning as a couple to a shared loss. We found that the COVID period accentuated all losses, awakening the parents’ grief for their own loss and their empathy for others. At the same time, they experienced limited opportunities for restoration-oriented distraction through connection with familiar activities and relationships beyond the family. Control or choice in this process of oscillation between orienting to grief versus ongoing life was impaired by the pandemic, as parents struggled to find a new dynamic balance to compensate for the risk of continuous engagement with reminders of their loss. Most notable was their close proximity as a couple, while being at a greater distance from the social network. The continuous attunement process between partners and family members played out in a process of drawing close and interposing distance, of grieving apart and together, of talking about grief and holding silence. We close by reflecting on the implications of our findings for clinical practice. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)


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Hooghe A; Claeys A; Thompson B; Neimeyer RA; Rober P, “Grieving the loss of a child in times of COVID-19,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed May 23, 2022,

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