Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Anne Westhues

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


The sudden death of a child is likely the most traumatizing event a parent can experience. Traumatic death, and particularly the death of a child, increases the risk of a complicated grieving process in mourners. Little has been written with respect to the interventions of professionals with parents at the time of a sudden death of a child. The present study examines the experiences of parents with a variety of professionals from the time of death notification through the funeral. Twenty parents who were involved in Bereaved Families of Ontario participated in this study. The purpose was to examine the impact of professional interventions on the grieving process of the parents. Qualitative inquiry was utilized with the heuristic aspect of the phenomenological approach using semi-structured, open-ended interviews. Thematic analysis was completed at two levels. The first identified three key themes in helping: the provision of instrumental assistance, compassion and information. The themes in grieving were the reconstruction of the death scene, issues of control and the assumptive world, saying goodbye, making sense of the death, and carrying the deceased child forward in a new world. The integration of these themes produced concrete ways of helping parents through the trauma, and facilitating a healthy grieving process. The conclusion of the study outlines the clinical implications of these significant findings.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season