The objectives of this research were to investigate if there are long term effects on
parents bereaved by stillbirth and whether suitable counselling is available. An in depth
review of literature on the subject highlighted issues such as difficulties of grief
and adaptation. Parents were believed to be prone to pathological grief relating to
difficulty in accepting the reality of the loss because of the lack of memories of the
child, incomplete separation, and developmental issues. Ambivalence might relate to
the child or medical staff or other women. Issues of self-esteem, lack of support, and
the socially negated status of the loss, also caused difficulty. Post-traumatic stress
disorder is common with stillbirth. As a result of their loss parents were prone to
difficulties ofparenting subsequent children. The 'vulnerable child' who is overprotected
and whose parents are hyper-vigilant is also common. Coping strategies of
guilt and self-blame were found as a defence against helplessness. Most literature
referred to the first 2 years after loss. This study used a self-report questionnaire, the
Perinatal Grief Scale (Potvin, Lasker & Toedter, 1989), as the basis for research.
Profile questions and one open question about counselling were also asked.
Participants whose loss occurred more than 2 years ago were sought. It was found
that their levels of grief were high, even for those whose loss was more than 30 years
ago. The gestational age of the child was not as significant. There was some
evidence of heightened appreciation and ambivalence around medical care. There
was also a sense of emptiness related to parents' experience. Parents had not been
offered counselling and most felt it could be useful.