Belinda Bracey

University of Rhode Island



Mentor: Raelene Shippee-Rice - Associate Professor of Nursing

The Grieving Child: An Exploratory Analysis of Grief Programs in Southern New Hampshire

With the current national focus on child-initiated violence, issues related to grief, death, and dying are overwhelmingly affecting today's youth. Although we, as the American public, frequently hear about grief programs for children in the midst of school crisis's such as the recent school shooting in Colorado, very little is written about the composition, implementation, and the accessibility of these programs within the hospital and hospice setting. Consequently, this qualitative study directed its focus on the composition of grief programs for children within southern New Hampshire.

An exploratory descriptive research approach was utilized for the purpose of this study. The primary sample for this study comprised of thirteen hospitals and twenty-three hospice organizations south of Laconia, New Hampshire. These agencies were subsequently screened in order to ascertain the availability of children's grief programs. Of the 36 agencies contacted, five met the above criteria. The second phase of the study entailed the completion of a comprehensive survey by the program coordinators of the children's grief programs of their respective agencies. In the third phase, in-depth interviews were conducted with each informant. More specifically, informants were asked to expand on six key questions to further discuss the structure and maintenance of their respective program in greater detail. Responses were transcribed, coded, and analyzed for the identification of recurrent themes. Results revealed a limited supply of hospice children grief programs accessible to the surrounding communities of southern New Hampshire. None of the hospitals involved in the study had their own grief programs for children within their respective agencies. However, several hospitals that participated in the screening process utilize the services of the five hospice programs for children who are grieving. Further results suggest that the composition of the programs involved in this study were modeled after the same nationally recognized grief facility and the works of a well known scholar in the field of thanatology.

Clinical implications within nursing involves the increased awareness and identification of children experiencing the process of grief among health professionals. Nurses within the acute and long term care setting should be familiar with referral sources for such programs that benefit children affected by the death of a loved one within their surrounding community Furthermore, this study can potentially encourage members of the nursing community to design and implement children grief programs within their communities.

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