Strategies for Health Care Providers to Help Individuals Experiencing Grief and Loss Due to Spinal Cord Injury (SCI): A Qualitative Study

Sherri L. LaVela*, Ibuola Kale, Elizabeth Burkhart, Charles H. Bombardier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: To explore health care professionals’ perceptions of ideal strategies for providers to use in care provision to help individualswith spinal cord injuries (SCI) dealwith injury-related grief and loss.Method: This study used a descriptive qualitative design using semistructured interviews with 15 SCI health providers and thematic analysis. Results: The sample included interprofessional health providers who provided SCI care for an average of 10.3 years at six nationally distributed facilities. Participants identified eight themes around strategies that can be used by providers to help individuals with SCI experiencing grief and loss. Strategies/themes included those that are relational, such as (Theme 1) listening and engaging in open discussions, (Theme 2) being empathetic and fostering trust, (Theme 3) normalizing the experience of grief for the individual, and (Theme 4) focusing on the individual with SCI as a whole. Task-oriented themes included providing regular screening/assessments for grief (Theme 5), coordinated care to the individual (Theme 6), support services (Theme 7), and education to help individuals with SCI understand the grief process (Theme 8). Conclusions: Providers identified strategies to facilitate holistic patient-centered grief care that included open communication, empathy, trust, and normalizing the grief experience, where appropriate. Providers believed that regular screenings for feelings of grief and loss are necessary to know where individuals with SCI are at in the grief process and what they need. Ideal grief care would benefit from coordinated care, support services, and patient education. These findings offer steps to guide health provider’s approach to addressing grief and loss due to injury among individuals with SCI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)315-324
Number of pages10
JournalRehabilitation Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022


  • Grief
  • Health provider strategies
  • Loss
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Strategies for Health Care Providers to Help Individuals Experiencing Grief and Loss Due to Spinal Cord Injury (SCI): A Qualitative Study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this