Parent Spirituality, Grief, and Mental Health at 1 and 3 Months After Their Infant's/Child's Death in an Intensive Care Unit

J Pediatr Nurs. 2016 Jan-Feb;31(1):73-80. doi: 10.1016/j.pedn.2015.07.008. Epub 2015 Aug 25.


The death of an infant/child is one of the most devastating experiences for parents and immediately throws them into crisis. Research on the use of spiritual/religious coping strategies is limited, especially with Black and Hispanic parents after a neonatal (NICU) or pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) death.

Purpose: The purpose of this longitudinal study was to test the relationships between spiritual/religious coping strategies and grief, mental health (depression and post-traumatic stress disorder) and personal growth for mothers and fathers at 1 (T1) and 3 (T2) months after the infant's/child's death in the NICU/PICU, with and without control for race/ethnicity and religion.

Results: Bereaved parents' greater use of spiritual activities was associated with lower symptoms of grief, mental health (depression and post-traumatic stress), but not post-traumatic stress in fathers. Use of religious activities was significantly related to greater personal growth for mothers, but not fathers.

Conclusion: Spiritual strategies and activities helped parents cope with their grief and helped bereaved mothers maintain their mental health and experience personal growth.

Keywords: Bereaved parents; NICU/PICU death; Spirituality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Grief
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Prognosis
  • Regression Analysis
  • Spiritual Therapies / methods*
  • Spirituality
  • Time Factors