Chronic Sorrow in the Field of Nursing: A Theoretical Investigation
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The theory of chronic sorrow is not a new one. It was introduced in the early sixties as a way of explaining the ongoing waves of grief experienced by parents of children with severe mental disabilities (Eakes, Burke, & Hainsworth, 1998). Since this early conceptualization, the theory has evolved significantly and has demonstrated important applications to nursing practice; by understanding how chronic sorrow affects patients, nurses are better equipped to guide them through this distinct and unique coping mechanism and ensure that they do not engage in pathological grief states such as depression (Gordon, 2009). In order to provide effective support to patients experiencing chronic sorrow, it is crucial for nurses to understand not only the nature of chronic sorrow, but also the situations that preclude it and how to differentiate it from other commonly confounded but distinct loss responses and pathologies (Casale, 2009).
Many different types of loss can elicit the chronic sorrow coping mechanism. Although it was first applied to parents of mentally disabled children, it has since been noted in a multitude of other sensations of loss (Eakes et al., 1998). While loss is generally associated with death, new evidence indicates that the sensation of loss is often present and perhaps more severely experienced with regards to a disrupted ideal or ongoing reminder of deficiency and undesirability of an expected outcome (Casale, 2009). In this way, it is clear that while death and loss are certainly linked, loss outcomes and coping responses to death as compared to an ongoing loss, such as in the case of severe mental impairment, are distinct (Teel, 1991). The distinction between these two very different mechanisms of loss can most ea...
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