Assumptions of the Theory of Chronic Sorrow

Theory of Chronic Sorrow: Georgene Gaskill Eakes, Mary Lerman Burke, and Margaret

A. Hainsworth

Chapter 26

Overview Of The Theory Of Chronic Sorrow

Chronic sorrow is the periodic recurrence of permanent, pervasive sadness or other grief-related feelings associated with ongoing disparity resulting from a loss experience

Chronic sorrow is viewed as normal response to a void created by ongoing disparity or loss; normalization of the experience does not diminish the validity or intensity of feelings

Overview of the Theory of Chronic Sorrow

Trigger events are those situations or circumstances that bring the disparity created by the loss into focus and trigger the grief-related feelings associated with chronic sorrow

Management methods within the theory refer to coping strategies used by persons during the chronic sorrow experience and supportive interventions provided by professionals

Major Concepts of Nursing Based on the Theory of Chronic Sorrow

Person: human beings with an idealized perception of life processes and health who compare their experiences both with the ideal and with others around them

Environment: interactions that occur within the social context, including family, social, work, and healthcare environments

Health: a normality of functioning, with a person’s health dependent upon adaptation to disparities associated with loss

Nursing: primary roles of nurses include empathetic presence, teacher-expert, and caring and competent caregiver

Chronic sorrow is a normal human response related to ongoing disparity created by a loss situation

Chronic sorrow is cyclic in nature

Predictable internal and external triggers of heightened grief can be categorized and anticipated

A human who experiences either a single loss or an ongoing loss will perceive a disparity between the ideal and reality

Disparity between the real and the ideal leads to feelings of pervasive sadness and grief

Propositions of the Theory of Chronic Sorrow

Humans have inherent and learned coping strategies that may or may not be effective in regaining normal equilibrium when they are experiencing chronic sorrow

Health professionals’ interventions may or may not be effective in assisting the person to regain equilibrium

Brief Critique of the Theory of Chronic Sorrow

Inductively derived and evaluated from review of literature and qualitative research data Key concepts are consistently defined

Proposed relationships between concepts are clear and logical

Introduced with focus on specific population, but has been shown to be applicable to a wide variety of loss situations

The Theory of Chronic Sorrow as a Framework for Nursing Practice

Assessment: The Chronic Sorrow Questionnaire or interview to identify the indicators of chronic sorrow; should also include assessment for presence and effectiveness of

internal management strategies already being used

Planning: matching the internal and external management strategies that should be the most beneficial based on specific loss situation

The Theory of Chronic Sorrow as a Framework for Nursing Practice

Implementation: provide anticipatory guidance regarding the situations and circumstances that are likely to trigger episodes of chronic sorrow; support and strengthen personal coping mechanisms

Evaluation: based on whether the management methods were ineffective or effective in decreasing discomfort