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Omega (Westport). 2007-2008;56(2):191-215.

Children of the condemned: grieving the loss of a father to death row.

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  • 1Georgia State University, USA.


This article explores the effects of a death sentence and execution on the children of the accused. Insight into the unique bereavement of this population is provided, while contributing to the literature on death and dying. The experience of losing a father to death row and eventual execution is compared to the wider population of children with incarcerated parents and it is determined that children of death row inmates contend with a much more complicated grief process, one that has gone largely unstudied. This article contains a brief discussion of disenfranchised grief and nonfinite loss, two theories that, we argue, shape the children's grief process. The results section of the article uses qualitative data gathered from 19 children to explore the role that nonfinite loss and disenfranchised grief share in the nature of their bereavement. Our discussion focuses on the impact of stigma and violence on the grieving process. Following a discussion of the unique challenges confronting the children of death row inmates is a discussion of the implications that their experience has for practice.

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