Grief and loss in some form or other lies at the heart of social work and, while it is not a competition, the loss and grief associated with the death of a child comprise the most significant trauma to be faced by any parent. This slim volume is essentially a retrospective of insights gained from the author’s experiences as a counsellor in a children’s hospital setting working with bereaved parents who have lost a child through stillbirth, accident, illness or life-limiting disease. The book’s central tenet is based around her belief in the importance of parents being able to form an ongoing relationship with their child after the child has died. While the idea of relationships transcending death is not new, the important role of continued symbolic bonds having been previously discussed by other authors, what I appreciated about this book was the clarity with which Segal is able to distil from her work with parents what is the lived experience of this thesis in everyday family life, and what it looks like day to day. Her exploration takes place through an introduction and eleven subsequent chapters. The introduction contextualises the theoretical orientation of the book alongside an acknowledgement of the pain, confusion and individuality of the bereavement experience. The following chapters examine the multidimensional loss the death of a child represents and how parents establish continuing bonds given the various contexts in which children die. This includes a consideration of the challenges presented to this process if parents have had only limited time with their child. While the uniqueness of bereavement is stressed, the idea of continuing bonds is developed through an examination of the role of counselling, group work, the attribution of spiritual meaning, the place of rituals in consolidating memories and the role of brothers and sisters in facilitating and sustaining these bonds of love after death that can ultimately over time prove transformational for the bereaved. The threats and barriers to this form of meaning making posed by feelings of anger and guilt are examined, as is the test that can be presented for parents by the birth of a subsequent child. The final chapter focuses on Seigal’s own experience as a counsellor in this area, and the contribution to her own development made by parents as well as other staff and professionals involved in supporting families in this situation. The voices of parents are powerfully rendered and their experiences faithfully and respectfully chronicled in a way that is both poignant and a testimony to people’s strength and creativity when confronted by this devastating and life-changing event. This is not a text book, but will be helpful and of interest to students, but postgraduate students in particular, and to those already working in this field. It is a humble, thoughtful and reflective book that demonstrates the author’s ability to care for and emotionally hold her clients by bearing witness to their pain and walking alongside them as they to recreate their relationships with their child after death. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The British Association of Social Workers. All rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
The British Journal of Social Work – Oxford University Press
Published: May 2, 2018
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