Messages to first responders from a bereaved parent


  • Richard Brown THINK Hauora Primary Health Organisation



Autoethnography, bereaved parents, first responders, professionals taking control, emergency services, bereavement support


INTRODUCTION: This article describes the use of autoethnography to explore my experience as a bereaved parent in relation to the traumatic loss of my 12-year-old child in 2009.

METHODS: Employing an autoethnographic approach, this research articulates and investigates personal narratives associated with experiences of the death of my young child. Narratives offer a rich description of the event and allow data analysis where emerging themes stream from a personal experience.

FINDINGS: Professionals taking control and the caring role of the community are main themes identified and analysed from these personal narratives. The findings advocate for an understanding of the needs of grieving parents at a time of extreme confusion. This article concentrates on professional first responders taking control and guiding traumatised parents when their child has a fatal event. Bereaved parents experience disorientation and traumatic confusion at the sudden death of their child. Emergency responders need to offer active listening skills and guidance.

IMPLICATIONS: Professional first responders need to take control of the bereaved parent’s early journey of grief as they are likely to be in a state of deep traumatic shock, where disorientation leaves them vulnerable to lowered cognitive ability. The use of active listening skills and sensitivity can direct traumatised parents, thereby assisting the short- and long-term welfare of the family by addressing their initial needs at a time of crisis.


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How to Cite

Brown, R. (2021). Messages to first responders from a bereaved parent. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 33(2), 80–87.



Original Articles II