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The spiritual and theological issues raised by stillbirth for healthcare chaplains

Maternity healthcare chaplains are impacted by stillbirth as they provide spiritual care. Study shows that suffering, doubt and presence feature for chaplains in their pastoral care of families in stillbirth.

Daniel Nuzum, Sarah Meaney, Keelin O'Donoghue
Journal Name
Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling
Journal Article
Spirituality, Staff support, Stillbirth
The spiritual and professional impact of stillbirth
Full Citation
Nuzum D, Meaney S, O’Donoghue K, Morris H. The spiritual and theological issues raised by stillbirth for healthcare chaplains. Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling. 2015;69(3):163-170.
Link to Publication


The death of a baby is one of the most difficult bereavements for parents, but also for healthcare professionals who are looking after them. Healthcare chaplains provide spiritual and pastoral support for parents in the maternity setting when they experience stillbirth. There is little information in the literature about the impact of this care on chaplains. This qualitative study amongst healthcare chaplains from 85% of maternity units in the Republic of Ireland sought to examine the spiritual impact of this care on them. The main spiritual themes in this study for healthcare chaplains were suffering, doubt and presence. Chaplains were impacted by the experience of suffering and felt this themselves as well; stillbirth caused some chaplains to doubt their own belief in God and was a challenge to their personal faith; Chaplains saw their ministry of presence as being at the heart of the spiritual care they provided for families when they experienced the death of a baby. The results from this study highlight the importance of chaplains being able to reflect theologically on these experiences as a way to help them to process their experiences.

Pregnancy Loss Research Group

Pregnancy Loss Research Group, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, University College Cork, Fifth Floor, Cork University Maternity Hospital, Wilton, Cork, T12 YE02, Ireland,