Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Kari Fletcher


Social Work


The diagnosis and treatment of a serious childhood illness impacts the entire family system and causes a wide range of changes and losses. This research explored the experience of eight families faced with the extended hospitalization of a child and investigated how their experiences could be understood from an ambiguous loss framework. Qualitative interviews were conducted with eight mothers to explore their perception of the changes within the family unit during extended hospitalization. Results indicated families do experience ambiguous loss during extended hospitalization, particularly family boundary ambiguity and the loss of a normative family experience. Participants indicated these losses were related to the ambiguous absence of the patient and caregiver. Social workers should be aware of these unrecognized or uncertain losses and how they impact the entire family system when working with children with a serious medical illness.

Included in

Social Work Commons