Purpose: To introduce a middle-range nursing theory of chronic sorrow that presents this sorrow as a normal response to ongoing disparity due to loss. Chronic sorrow is the periodic recurrence of permanent, pervasive sadness or other grief related feelings associated with a significant loss. The theory provides a framework for understanding and working with people following a single or ongoing loss.
Organizing framework: The model of chronic sorrow includes antecedents, trigger events, and internal and external management methods.
Scope: Theory is useful for analyzing individual responses of people experiencing ongoing disparity due to chronic illness, caregiving responsibilities, loss of the "perfect" child, or bereavement.
Sources: The theory was developed using concept analysis, critical review of research, and validation in 10 qualitative studies of various loss situations.
Conclusions: Chronic sorrow has been shown to explain the experience of people across the lifespan who encounter ongoing disparity because of significant loss. Nurses need to view chronic sorrow as a normal response to loss and, when it is triggered, provide support by fostering positive coping strategies and assuming roles that increase comfort.