Based on a model of bereavement guilt developed by the investigators, this study assessed the frequency of guilt feelings, explored their sources, and compared the guilt experiences of parents whose children died by different modes–suicide, accident, and chronic disease. Of the 132 parents who participated in the study: sixty-two experienced a child’s death by suicide; thirty-two by an accident; and thirty-eight by a chronic disease. Data from open-ended questions were analyzed using content analysis methods. Guilt feelings were reported by 92 percent of suicide bereaved parents, 78 percent of accident bereaved parents, and 71 percent of chronic disease bereaved parents. Furthermore, 34 percent of the suicide bereaved parents reported that guilt was the most distressing aspect of their grief, while none of the accident bereaved or chronic disease bereaved parents reported guilt as the most distressing aspect of their grief. Using the previously developed topology of guilt sources, findings supported the existence of six sources: Death Causation, Illness-related, Childrearing, Moral, Survival, and Grief Guilt. Sources differed by type of death. Death Causation and Childrearing Guilt were more prevalent among suicide and accident bereaved parents than among chronic disease bereaved parents. As expected, Illness-related Guilt was more prevalent in parents of children who died of chronic disease. Few parents reported Grief, Moral, or Survival Guilt. Implications of the findings for clinical practice with bereaved parents are discussed.
Miles, M. S., & Demi, A. S. (1992). A comparison of guilt in bereaved parents whose children died by suicide, accident, or chronic disease. Omega-Journal of Death and Dying, 24(3), 203-215.