Educating Nurses

Nursing theorists began studying chronic sorrow in the 1980s after they had observed it in their nursing practice. In 1989, nursing theorists Georgene Eakes, Mary Lerman Burke, Margaret Hainsworth and Carolyn Lindgren established the Nursing Consortium for Research on Chronic Sorrow (NCRCS) to jointly study chronic sorrow.

Chronic sorrow was documented as a middle-range theory in 1998. This research led to the theory used to provide a framework to better understand how individuals react to ongoing loss situations that occur in chronic illness. They defined chronic sorrow as “the periodic recurrence of permanent, pervasive sadness or other grief-related feelings associated with ongoing disparity resulting from a loss experience.” 1

The theory of chronic sorrow has continued to evolve and has been studied in diverse situations and groups of people. Research shows that as long as ongoing losses exist, resulting in a gap between “what is” and the parents’ view of “what should have been,” an overwhelming number of parents and caregivers will experience recurrent grief-related emotions known as chronic sorrow.

To effectively support parents of children with chronic conditions, it is especially important for school nurses to recognize the unique challenges faced by parents in support of their child’s health and academic success.

To view a slide show about how school nurses and other healthcare providers can help parents of children with chronic conditions, download the presentation below:

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  1. G.G. Eakes, 1998, 2004