When a baby dies: Ambiguity and stillbirth

Joanne Cacciatore, John Defrain, Kara L C Jones

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    55 Scopus citations


    Stillbirth, or sudden intrauterine death, is in many ways an invisible death. A stillborn infant is one mature enough developmentally to have lived outside the womb but for some reason, or perhaps multiple reasons, was born dead. Stillborn infants are often demarcated from other types of child death and are rarely legitimized as a real loss. When a baby is stillborn, mothers, fathers, surviving siblings, and grandparents may struggle for years to find answers to a series of complex and inherently unanswerable questions. The family members' profound feelings of grief and ambiguity loss are borne in a social environment that denies this reality because the child's death was invisible to most of the world. Boss's framework for understanding ambiguous loss proves quite helpful in thinking about stillbirth.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)439-454
    Number of pages16
    JournalMarriage and Family Review
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Nov 14 2008


    • Ambiguous loss
    • Bereavement
    • Boundary ambiguity
    • Infant death
    • Stillbirth

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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