Promoting Meaning-Making to Help our Patients Grieve: An Exemplar for Genetic Counselors and Other Health Care Professionals
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- Douglas, H.A. J Genet Counsel (2014) 23: 695. doi:10.1007/s10897-014-9731-6
Genetic counselors and other health professionals frequently meet with patients who are grieving a loss. It is thus helpful for medical professionals to be familiar with approaches to bereavement counseling. Grief theory has evolved over the last few decades, from primarily stage theories of grief such as Kübler-Ross’s “five stages of grief” to frameworks that promote more complex and long-term ways to cope with a loss. Herein I present one recent grief theory – meaning-making - and describe how it can be applied to help parents of children with disabilities grieve the loss of the child that they expected. In particular, I describe a scenario that many genetic counselors face - meeting with the parents of a child with Down syndrome. I outline the research done on the reactions, grief and coping experienced by parents in this circumstance, and I present suggestions for encouraging healthy coping and adjustment for parents, based on the meaning-making perspective. The meaning-making theory can also be applied to many of the other losses faced by genetic counseling patients.