Impact of perinatal death on siblings

Mountains during sunset

Impact of perinatal death on siblings

What is this project about?

Impact of perinatal death on siblings

Children’s grief in perinatal loss can be misunderstood and overlooked. Children’s grief may not present itself in the same way as adults, but their grief is apparent in changed behaviours, regression, emotional outbursts and separation anxiety. Often this challenging behaviour is misunderstood by families as being naughty or seeking attention from emotionally exhausted parents. Parents’ behaviour and ability to respond to the grief of surviving siblings while mourning infant loss has a crucial role in the child’s grief. Surviving siblings are susceptible to a dual loss of their expected baby brother or sister but also the loss of an engaged supportive parent.

The aim of this project is to examine current practices in responding to families who experience perinatal death and to retrospectively explore the experiences of surviving siblings.

What is involved?

We are conducting interviews with families experiencing perinatal loss to explore:

  • their perception of the child’s experience of perinatal death
  • parental behaviour subsequent to a perinatal death as a determining factor in sibling’s grief.

This will provide a greater understanding of the needs of surviving siblings, influence how practitioners engage with families following perinatal death who have surviving children at home, and inform information resources for bereaved parents and families around communicating with children.

Who is involved?

Project team

Name Affiliation
Orla Jennings Pregnancy Loss Research Group 
Dr Sara Leitao National Perinatal Epidemiology Centre, UCC; Pregnancy Loss Research Group
Professor Keelin O'Donoghue Pregnancy Loss Research Group 

Dissemination activities

Journal articles

  • Jennings O, Leitao S, O’Donoghue, K. Mind yourself so you can mind me; The role of parental behaviour in perinatal death on the surviving sibling’s grief. OMEGA - Journal of Death and Dying. 2024.

Project status

Ongoing: 2018 to 2023

Further information

Please email Dr Sara Leitao:

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,