Theory of Chronic Sorrow and Nursing Application
The theory of chronic sorrow is a middle range nursing theory explored largely by Georgene Gaskill Eakes, Mary Lermnann Burke and Maragret A. Hainsworth. The theory provides framework for understanding and working with individuals who have experienced a significant loss of a loved one. As stated by Eakes et al. (1998, p. 179), Chronic sorrow is described as “…the periodic recurrence of permanent, pervasive sadness or other grief related feelings associated with a significant loss.” As nurses, it is vitally important to understand and be aware of the high potential for chronic sorrow to occur when treating patients across the life span with ...view middle of the document...
, 2007). Parents grief and sorrow for their child may be triggered when epileptic events occur or when they see other children developmentally advancing. Hobdell (1996) interview a mother of a two year old with a neural tube defect about chronic sorrow in which she states “If you were to ask me these questions in about a year and he was not toilet-trained, I would respond very differently.” The statement provided by the mother supports the notion of parents feeling grief over a child’s lack of achieving developmental milestones. Parents may feel psychological emotions such as frustration and helplessness in relationship to burden of care and developmental delays.
It is imperative as nurses to educate families and provide the tools necessary to ensure the best possible outcome for both the patient and the caregiver(s). A supporting study by Austin and McDermott (1988) shows a positive relationship between factors such as the ability to maintain family integration, optimistic definition of the circumstances, social support, self-esteem, and psychological stability. Maintaining a positive relationship within these components in this authors viewpoint, can aid in effectively managing the affects of chronic sorrow.
Isaksson, Ann-Krisitin, Ahlstrom, and Gerd (2208) study describes the ways in which patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) display and manage chronic sorrow. Persons with multiple sclerosis, often having feelings of sorrow and fear due to losses associated with the disease (Isaksson, Ann-Kristin, Ahlstrom, & Gerd, 2008) Patients with chronic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, feel effects of chronic sorrow with increasing loss of function and independence as the disease progresses. Burke et al. states chronic sorrow of these individuals may also be triggered by events that bring awareness of past and present loss (Eakes, 1998; as cited in Isaksson et al., 2008).
For example, seeing an individual in a wheelchair can prompt many feelings of loss, fear, and sorrow. This event can remind the patient with multiple sclerosis of the possibility of future losses that could be an inevitable outcome from the progressive nature of the disease (Isaksson et al., 2008). In Hainsworth’s (1994) study interviews of patient with MS were conducted to detect afflicted individuals with chronic sorrow. In this study it was found that sorrow was also triggered by feeling loss of control of their situation. Patients stated they compared themselves to healthy peers and feel grief and frustration remembering how they were before the illness. These individuals acknowledge the control of their lives had been taken over by MS.
Nurses should be aware of this occurrence and offer tools such as community resources to elicit effective internal management methods. Effective internal management methods according to Eakes et al. (1998) include maintaining interest and activities, seeking information, and taking advantage of opportunities.
Eakes et al. (1998) also...