The perceptions of families whose babies died in the perinatal period about participating in a therapeutic photographic project

The perceptions of families whose babies died in the perinatal period about participating in a therapeutic photographic project

Norma Grau Andrés, Anna Fité (2), Júlia Plana Soria (3), Montse Robles (4), Verónica Violant Holz (5)

(1) Psychologist and Photographer, creator of the Stillbirth Project, (2) Co-founder of Dol d’Estels and medical specialist in public health, (3) Midwife, Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, Barcelona, (4) Nurse Specialist in Grief. Assistencial Supervisor of Servei de Suport al Dol de Ponent, (5) Associate Professor, Department of Didactics and Educational Organization, Faculty of Education, University of Barcelona.

Despite being recommended for its benefits to the grief process, photographing of stillborn babies and neonates is not fully established in Spanish hospitals, meaning many families don’t have any images of their children. The Stillbirth Project was set up to work with families to create symbolic images of loss (photographs containing important objects along with family members). The project requires parents to actively collaborate with a photographer in the production of the final images. The purpose of this study was to investigate the perceptions of the parents who have participated (n=180).

An anonymous online structured survey of closed-ended questions was administrated to all the participating families.

59 families responded (32%), all of which were mothers. Of these, 62.7% of the families did not have any previous photographs of their babies. 30.5% participated more than one year after the death of their child, 28.8% within six months and 13.6% within one month. 80% thought that they had participated at the right time in the grief process and 12% that they should have done so earlier. 89.8% affirm that participating had made it easier to talk more about their infants. All respondents stated that participating in the production of the “Stillbirth Project” photographs had helped them (rating of 4 or 5 out of 5) in the process of grieving.

The therapeutic function of creating or producing artistic images is well established as being a beneficial therapy for narrative and reconstruction processes in grief. Although the response rate is low, which may imply a selection bias, the Stillbirth Project appears to provide valuable support to families who seek help in the grief process through the creation of symbolic images in the form of photographs.

Ethics statement:
Families have been informed that the participation is voluntary, that sending the answer through the link provided to them means that they agree to the cession of information rights and that they agreed to the cession by signing an informed consent and in any case they will be identifiable individuals.

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