Secondary Logo

Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Normal Complications and Abnormal Assumptions After Perinatal Death

Cacciatore, Joanne, PhD; Thieleman, Kara, MSW

MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: January/February 2019 - Volume 44 - Issue 1 - p 6–12
doi: 10.1097/NMC.0000000000000486

There are several ways, clinically, to approach grief after perinatal death, including from a humanistic or a medicalized perspective. The death of a baby is complicated. The loss is an embodied one that incites deep psychological wounds and can be isolating for many parents. Parents process their grief experiences within a sometimes oppressive social context that either sees their expressions of loss as a normal response to an abnormal tragedy or as pathology. Several diagnostic categories have been proposed relative to the traumatic grief experiences of grieving parents that potentially affect them. We explore this nomenclature and, through the lens of a Social-Cognitive Processing Model, examine social support, attitudes, context, and oppressive interpersonal and social structures that affect parents. Clinical implications are discussed.

Death of a baby can be traumatizing for the parents and family. Some expressions of grief that have been considered pathologic in the past are likely normal in this population. Diagnosis categories of perinatal grief are discussed and clinical recommendations offered.

Joanne Cacciatore is an Associate Professor, School of Social Work, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ. The author can be reached via e-mail at

Kara Thieleman is a Doctoral Student, School of Social Work, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Perinatal death often incites traumatic grief in parents, just as any child's death.

Copyright © 2019 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved