Grief and Loss Among Veterans With Spinal Cord Injury: A Qualitative Study

Abstract

Purpose 

The objective of this study was to understand veteran perspectives of grief/loss associated with their spinal cord injury (SCI).

Design/Methods 

Qualitative descriptive design using semistructured interviews with veterans with SCI (n = 15) was performed using interview questions informed by the literature. Analysis was conducted using a deductive/inductive approach.

Results 

The 15 participants’ mean age was 64 years; six had paraplegia, eight had tetraplegia, one had unknown level of injury, six were ambulatory, and nine were not ambulatory. The grief/loss experience was individual and constant, consisting of seven phases: experiencing shock, releasing emotion, withdrawing, focusing on losses, problem solving, realizing strength and motivation, and accepting a new life. Veteran coping strategies used in each phase of the grief experience were also identified, as well as triggers that increased or decreased the grief/loss experience.

Conclusions/Clinical Relevance 

A better understanding of veterans living with SCI grief experience, coping strategies, and triggering events can help healthcare providers support veterans with SCI.