Chaplaincy Support to Bereaved Parents - Part 2

Balancing Options, Openness and Authoritative Action


  • Mark Newitt Chaplaincy Department, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield



Chaplaincy, Communitas, Koinonia, Liminality, Openness, Performative Utterances, Pregnancy Loss, Religious Care, Spiritual Care, Words Against Death


The second of two articles, this installment reflects on the way bereaved parents valued the support of a chaplaincy following the death of their baby. The article describes how some parents wanted options and others “authoritative action” and notes that co-creation of ritual is not always appropriate. Chaplains are described as authoritative in both religious matters concerning the eternal destiny of babies and spiritual matters of identity. The notion of a sharp divide between religious and spiritual care is questioned. A lack of clarity among chaplains as to their role is connected to the contradictory tensions of a society that has rejected religious authority and yet of parents wanting authoritative statements/recognition. Anthropological insights concerning ritual are drawn upon to help understand the chaplain’s identity. It is recommended chaplaincy support be written into guidelines/protocols for the care of bereaved parents. Chaplains are encouraged to learn more about transferential or intersubjective responses.

Author Biography

  • Mark Newitt, Chaplaincy Department, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield

    Revd. Dr Mark Newitt BSc, BA, DThM, is a chaplain at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. He trained for ordination at Cranmer Hall, Durham, and was a curate in Northampton before taking up his current post in 2006. Since his first degree in Pharmaceutical Management he has maintained an interest in healthcare, ethics and spirituality. He has a Doctorate in Theology and Ministry from Durham University, where the focus of his research was chaplaincy support to bereaved parents following the in utero or neonatal death of their baby. He is book review editor of Health and Social Care Chaplaincy.


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How to Cite

Newitt, M. (2015). Chaplaincy Support to Bereaved Parents - Part 2: Balancing Options, Openness and Authoritative Action. Health and Social Care Chaplaincy, 3(1), 23-40.