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‘It was like an airbag, it cushioned the blow’: A multi-site qualitative study of bereaved parents’ experiences of using cooling facilities

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JournalPalliative Medicine
DatePublished - 20 Jan 2022
Issue number2
Volume36
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)1-10
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Background:
Evidence on the benefits to parents of spending time with their child in the hours after their death means this is now routine practice. UK children’s hospices offer parents the opportunity to extend this period by using cooling facilities (i.e. cooled ‘bedrooms’; cooling blankets/mattresses) to slow deterioration.

Aim:
To explore parents’ experiences of using cooling facilities and beliefs about how it shaped experiences of the very early days of bereavement, and on-going grieving processes.

Methods:
Multi-site study involving in-depth interviews with parents bereaved in the previous 3 years. Grief theories informed data analysis, which employed narrative and thematic approaches. Eight hospices supported recruitment.

Results:
Twenty-two mothers and eight fathers were recruited, representing 25% of families approached. Duration of use of a cooling facility varied, as did the amount of time spent with the child. All parents treasured this period, valuing the way it eased separation from their child and gave some control over when this happened. They believed all bereaved parents should have the opportunity to use a cooling facility. Using a cooling facility supported parents’ engagement with grief tasks including acceptance of loss, processing emotional pain and facing changes to their lives brought about by their child’s death. Memories and mementoes created during this period served to support on-going connections with the child. Parents who used a cooling facility at a hospice reported benefits of the setting itself.

Conclusions:
As well as easing the very early days of loss, use of cooling facilities may influence longer-term bereavement outcomes.

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© The Author(s) 2022

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