Date of Award

Spring 5-22-2021

Document Type

Doctor of Nursing Practice Final Manuscript

Degree Name

Doctor of Nursing Practice



First Advisor

Martha G. Fuller, PhD

Second Advisor

Donna Agan, EdD


Introduction: The death of a child is a devastating tragedy. Evidence demonstrates a link between bereavement and increased mortality risks and decrements in physical and mental health. Factors are compounded in active-duty service members through arduous duty environments, deployments, relocations, and inadequate support systems.

Methods: A focused literature search of bereavement specifically concentrated on child loss and the sequela on survivor mental health and functioning was conducted. The quality of the evidence was assessed using the Melnyk Evidence-Based Practice Model. The Evidence-Based Public Health Model was used as a guide for policy development.

Evidence-Based Intervention: Draft a military parental bereavement leave policy that can be implemented in the military setting.

Findings: The loss of a child increases the risk of suicide, mental health disorders, substance abuse, disability, psychiatric hospitalization, and overall mortality for survivors. After the death of a child, parents experienced rates of prolonged grief and/or complicated grief ranging from 10%-94% and rates of post-traumatic stress disorder ranging from 0.6%-39%. Despite evidence demonstrating that service members experiencing losses are more susceptible to clinically impairing grief reactions, there are no bereavement leave policies in the military.

Conclusions: Policymakers must recognize the consequences of ineffective family bereavement and consider the adverse effects on the operational capabilities of service members. Granting two weeks of non-chargeable bereavement leave to active-duty personnel after an immediate family death should be standard practice. Military service branches have a responsibility to address family-friendly policies, including those surrounding bereavement to ensure optimal force readiness.


Author Disclaimer:The views expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Departments of the Navy, the Army, the Air Force, nor the United States Government.

Copyright Statement: “I am a military service member or federal/contracted employee of the United States government. This work was prepared as part of my official duties. Title 17 U.S.C. 105 provides that ‘copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government.' Title 17 U.S.C. 101 defines a U.S. Government work as work prepared by a military service member or employee of the U.S. Government as part of that person's official duties.”