THE MYTH OF THE REPLACEMENT CHILD: PARENTS' STORIES AND PRACTICES AFTER PERINATAL DEATH
Parents bereaved by perinatal death adapt to their losses in different ways. When bereaved parents give birth to a child or children subsequent to a perinatal death, their constructions of the family necessarily change. The subsequent child is thought to be at risk of psychopathology (the replacement child syndrome) if parents have not sufficiently grieved their losses. This qualitative interview study examines the family stories told by bereaved parents, with particular attention to how parents represent the dead child and subsequent children in the current family structure. We categorized parents' stories as those which suggested that parents replaced the loss by an emphasis on parenting subsequent children, or maintained a connection to the dead child through storytelling and ritual behavior. The two ways in which parents maintained the connection were to preserve the space in the family that the dead child would have inhabited, or to create an on-going relationship with the dead child for themselves and their subsequent children. There seem to be multiple paths to parenting through bereavement. The place of rituals and memorial behavior is also examined.
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