Time frame

While the stages of the grief process are virtually universal in parents of children with disabilities, many factors mitigate the intensity of the parents’ reactions and the length of time involved. The life experiences of individual parents, the complexities of family systems, and the amount of emotional and physical support available all influence the grief process. There are significant variations in the length of each stage, and stages may overlap or repeat.

Nurse can support families through the grief process by reminding them that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that the hardest part is usually at the beginning. As Naseef explains,

"Day by day, after diagnosis, parents live with their children and learn to love them as they are. While grief can be prolonged over a matter of years and throughout the life cycle, the most intense and immobilizing initial reactions are usually short-lived, lasting at most a few months. After that time, most parents are strongly motivated to find the best program they can to maximize their child’s achievements. Once goals have been readjusted, parents usually will find meaning and joy in their child’s accomplishments, no matter how small." (Naseef, p. 181)

Through careful assessment and knowledge of the grief process, nurses can determine the stage each family member is in and adjust nursing interventions accordingly.

Instant Feedback:
Parents generally follow the same stages in the grief process, but the timing and intensity of their responses may vary.