Ethnography of perinatal grief online.

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In most cultures, the grief of a perinatal death has been invisible. In this ethnography, I studied the culture of a listserv, an online community of parents who had experienced a perinatal loss. The place for this study was 'online,' a new venue for support groups and the bereaved.The philosophy for this study's design was symbolic interactionism, a constructionist philosophy that allowed me to build up knowledge of this culture. I used the following methods: archival review, participant-observation, open-ended questions, and participant feedback.This listserv was a community of mothers and one grandmother who had experienced the loss of an infant through miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal death. No men actively participated. There were between 82 and 87 members of the list who came from North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The internet connected mothers who, otherwise, would not have met. Only 30 mothers were active and wrote emails. The remainder participated by reading emails. For this study, I analyzed 447 emails and 17 web based surveys. Data were managed, coded, and stored in the NVivo, a qualitative research computer program.Communication on the list was in patterns. When a new member announced her presence, she told the story of her loss. Other remembers responded to her story and re-told their own stories. Members expressed feelings, told stories, sought support, and gave support. Grief came in waves and was exacerbated, even years after the death, by holidays, anniversaries, pregnancy, or other tragic events. During the participant-observation phase of this study, a major event which affected the members of this list were the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.The essence of this study was Shared Metamorphosis. Participating in this online culture, they shared virtual identities, created a community, and brought meaning to their perpetual losses. Their grief was not a process of detachment, but of remembrance and memories. Mothers on this list used symbols to represent the deceased babies, the most common was the angel. They called their babies angels and themselves mommies of angels. In their own words, joining this community meant, 'You're not alone.'

Author-supplied keywords

  • Conceptual Framework
  • Data Collection Methods
  • Ethnographic Research
  • Female
  • Grief
  • Human
  • Listserv
  • Mothers -- Psychosocial Factors
  • Perinatal Death -- Psychosocial Factors
  • Pregnancy
  • Support, Psychosocial
  • Symbolism (Psychology)

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