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Ethnography, Grief, Online, Perinatal



  1. Capitulo, Kathleen Leask DNSc, RN, FACCE


Objective: To describe and interpret the culture of an online perinatal loss group.


Study Design and Methods: This qualitative study used ethnography, the study of culture. Methods included participant-observation, review of 447 e-mails, and participants' feedback about the findings. The setting was online in a perinatal loss listserv consisting of mothers and one grandmother who had experienced a perinatal loss through miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal death. In this changing group, there were between 82 to 87 participants from North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.


Findings: The essence of the culture was Shared Metamorphosis. The Internet connected grieving women who otherwise would likely not have met. Participants shared virtual identities, created a community, and brought meaning to their perpetual losses. Their grief was a process of remembrance and memories, and they used symbols to represent the deceased babies; angels were a commonly discussed symbol. For bereaved mothers "life would never be the same," but joining the community of the perinatal loss listserv meant they would never be alone.


Clinical Implications: The culture of online support can link individuals who are geographically distant but share common issues, in this case a perinatal loss. Professionals can use this study to better understand what women experience after a perinatal loss, and what their role can be in validating and supporting these new "mothers of angels."