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Prayer and Faith Helps Parents Endure Their Child’s Deat

According to a study parents more often than not seek spiritual help when facing the probability of death of their child // .

According to new findings, published in the September issue of Pediatrics, spiritual and religious support is helpful to many parents in making end-of-life decisions for their child, in finding meaning in their loss, and for emotional sustenance. The survey showed that parents are always in the want for the best medical care and attention they could get for their children but also seek spiritual care when faced with the death of their child.

The study was led by Rev. Mary Robinson, MA, MDiv, of Children's Hospital Boston's Chaplaincy, and Elaine Meyer, PhD, RN, director of Children's Program to Enhance Relational and Communication Skills (PERCS), which helps clinicians practice difficult conversations with parents. They administered anonymous questionnaires to 56 parents whose children had died in one of three pediatric intensive care units (ICUs) in Boston after the parents decided to withdraw life-sustaining therapies.

The deceased children ranged in age from newborn to 18 years, and represented the full range of medical and surgical diagnoses. Parents completed the questionnaires 12 to 45 months after their child's death.

The researchers focused on five open-ended questions: 1) What was most helpful to you in getting through the time at the end of your child's life?
2) What was least helpful?
3) How can the hospital staff improve their communication with parents at this difficult time?
4) What advice do you have for hospital staff members in helping parents during this difficult time?
5) What advice do you have for other parents who are facing a similar situation?

Although not asked explicitly about religion or spirituality, 73 percent of parents offered religious/spiritual responses when describing what had been most helpful to them and what advice they
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