Gradually Disengaging: Parent–Health care Provider Relationships After a Child’s Death in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit

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Abstract

When a child dies in the intensive care unit, many bereaved parents want relationships with their child’s health care staff to continue in the form of follow-up care. However, the nature of these relationships and how they change across the parents’ bereavement journey is currently unknown. This article explores early and ongoing relationships between parents and health care staff when a child dies in intensive care. Constructivist grounded theory methods were used to recruit 26 bereaved parents from four Australian pediatric intensive care units into the study. Data were collected via audio-recorded, semistructured interviews and analyzed using the constant comparative methods and theoretical memoing. Findings show that these relationships focus on Gradually disengaging, commonly moving through three phases after the child dies: Saying goodbye, Going home, and Seeking supports. These findings provide guidance to health care staff on what families need as they leave the intensive care unit and move through bereavement.

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