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Until the mid-1980s a stillbirth `was considered to be a medical setback instead of a human tragedy' (Lovell 1983 cited in Faro 2021, p. 268). A stillbirth `was usually managed without the institutional recognition of maternal grief' (Davidson 2011), now recognised by many as disenfranchised grief, a grief that is `not openly acknowledged, publicly mourned or socially supported' (Doka, 1989, p. 4). During the mid-1980s, however, acknowledgement of stillbirth as a major bereavement began (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society 2021) and medical, social, legal and religious attitudes towards stillbirth also began experiencing significant changes (Duchemin-Pelletier 2017).
The aim of this research is to investigate the lived experience following a stillbirth suffered by mothers, fathers, siblings, and extended family members in Australia both prior to and following the mid-1980s, as well as the way in which many family members may continue to suffer, even decades later, as a result of social and medical refusal of their grief. The year 1960 has been selected for this research project as it is unlikely the principal investigator will be able to locate or interview persons with a lived experience following a stillbirth prior to the year 1960.
Through an analysis of oral narratives of people's lived experiences, using the qualitative method Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), this research will consider how such accounts offer insight into the meaning of the lived experience following a stillbirth and the profound impact it has had, and can have, on the lives of all family members.
The implications of this research may contribute to a greater understanding and acknowledgment of the lived experience following a stillbirth of mothers, fathers, siblings and extended family members both prior to and after the mid-1980s. It may also provide a context within which each family member's unique individual lived experience is recognised as valid and normal, and that those who may continue to suffer can receive appropriate specialised care, support, and social acceptance.
This research project therefore will aim to answer the following research questions:
-What have been people's lived experiences following a stillbirth?
-How do people believe the lived experience following a stillbirth has changed over time?
-How do people think they might have been more effectively supported?
-What changes do people believe are needed to support families currently experiencing a stillbirth?
For more information, please email the Graduate Research School or phone 0746 31 1088.