Self-Compassion for Caregivers of Children in Parentally Bereaved Families: A Theoretical Model and Intervention Example

Na Zhang, Irwin Sandler, Kara Thieleman, Sharlene Wolchik, Karey O’Hara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Family-based bereavement interventions have shown promises to prevent problem outcomes and promote resilience in parentally bereaved children. Evidence of the broad range of mental and physical health problems following the death of a parent supports the need for a transdiagnostic approach that promotes adaptation and reduces multiple problem outcomes for parentally bereaved families. We discuss self-compassion as a promising framework for a transdiagnostic approach. We argue that three elements of self-compassion—mindfulness (vs. over-identification), self-kindness (vs. self-judgment), and common humanity (vs. isolation)—can facilitate loss-oriented coping, restoration-oriented coping, and the oscillation process between the two. This sets the foundation for individual and family processes that support bereavement adjustment. To explain how self-compassion promotes adjustment outcomes in parentally bereaved families, we review the extant literature with a focus on parental emotion regulation and effective parenting and propose a conceptual model with testable hypotheses to guide more research in this area. The model suggests that caregivers’ self-compassion is a resilience resource for multiple adaptive outcomes for themselves and for their child through its positive impacts on emotion regulation and effective parenting. We illustrate the utility of the framework with an example of a family-based bereavement prevention program that integrated self-compassion training. Future directions for research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)430-444
Number of pages15
JournalClinical Child and Family Psychology Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • Bereavement
  • Child adjustment
  • Mental health
  • Mindfulness
  • Parenting
  • Self-compassion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Self-Compassion for Caregivers of Children in Parentally Bereaved Families: A Theoretical Model and Intervention Example'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this