Understanding the spirituality of parents following stillbirth: a qualitative meta-synthesis

Understanding the spirituality of parents following stillbirth: a qualitative meta-synthesis

Willyane Alvarenga, PhD, Francine de Montigny, PhD, Sabrina Zeghiche, PhD(c),
Naiara Polita, PhD(c), Chantal Verdon,PhD, Lucila Nascimento, PhD.

Université du Québec en Outaouais, Canada.

It is known that the experience of stillbirth is a challenge for the parents. However, parents’ spirituality and its relation to coping after a stillbirth remains insufficiently understood, in contrast to other findings from literature reviews. Nurses need to better understand the issues at the spiritual level in order to assist parents to soften suffering. The purpose of this review is to synthesize qualitative evidence from primary studies to more fully understand the experience of spirituality of parents and its relationship to adapting following stillbirth.

This qualitative meta-synthesis used the following steps from Sandelowski and Barroso approach: literature search; quality appraisal; analysis and synthesis of findings. We analyzed studies (N = 21) searched in five databases (PUBMED, CINAHL, PsycINFO, LILACS, and SCOPUS) and the findings concerning spirituality was synthesized using the thematic synthesis approach.

Findings were integrated into two analytical themes. Firstly, Spiritual suffering following stillbirth, that is characterized by the four descriptive themes: conflicting expressions of hope and lack of hope, dealing with profound questions and lack of meaning, experiencing spiritual struggles, and disconnectedness from the self and the surrounding world. Secondarily, the theme Moving through spirituality to adapt to the loss describes and explain the four descriptive themes: renewing the connection with the deceased baby, ensuring the ideal whereabouts of the deceased baby, embracing facilitating beliefs, and gaining strength in themselves, others, and nature.

This meta-synthesis highlights the parents’ spiritual suffering and their spiritual strategies to promote an increased sense of life and hope following stillbirth. The findings can inform a more culturally and spiritually sensitive approach to care, which takes into account the parents’ beliefs, folk customs, religion, values, and spiritual needs.

Ethics statement:
Ethics approval was not required.

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