Awards 2010: The Social Group Without A Name

13 January 2010

Elaine Duro and Daughter

Elaine Duro (left) with her late daughter Natalie.

Elaine Duro

Elaine Duro (today). She will be graduating on January 23.

A child who loses their parents is an orphan while a woman whose husband dies is known as a widow; similarly a bereaved husband becomes a widower.

Yet new research has concluded that no one single word in the dictionary exists to describe parents who lose a child.

Courageous mother Elaine Duro, whose 21-year-old daughter Natalie died nine years ago, has taken inspiration from her devastating experience to research parental bereavement and change careers to become a professional counsellor.

Elaine (50) of Kirk Hallam, graduates at the University of Derby's annual Awards Ceremonies on January 23, having gained an MA with Distinction in Integrative Counselling Practice. She is now working as a full time social support counsellor for the NHS in Nottingham helping clients with a diverse range of social and interpersonal issues to achieve positive psychological well-being.

Her late daughter Natalie was a Sociology student at Nottingham Trent University and fell ill in October 2000 with suspected lymphoma. She was undergoing diagnostic tests at the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary, but tragically and unexpectedly died on Boxing Day that year.

Elaine's Masters' research, dedicated to Natalie, was entitled: The Voice of Experience: A case study exploring the long term experiences of traumatic adult child bereavement upon the surviving parent.

She said: "Amazingly, the English language has no single word to describe a 'bereaved parent'.

"Perhaps it should be considered that when one's child dies, 'bereaved parents' belong to a 'social group' that no one wants to join. 'We' become social outcasts who are feared by others because 'we' are a reflection of reality that represents a parent's deepest fear, the death of their child.

"Thus, 'we' become invisible within society, and relegated to a stance of becoming a misnomer; whereby 'child death always happens to someone else, and never to you!"

Elaine suggests the absence of a word to summarise bereaved parents is because the death of a child goes against the 'natural order of life', whereby society presumes that older generations are most likely to die first.

She interviewed fellow bereaved parents aiming to capture the parents' own perspective of this human experience. Elaine concluded that this social group has a vital voice and experience to contribute to society, whereby the bereaved need to tell their stories - but often society does not want to listen. She suggests that being able to share stories could help bereaved individuals begin to heal.

Following Natalie's death, Elaine, who was working as an Account Manager with Pendragon Contracts in Derby, considered a career change with a view to helping others. This came about as a result of the support she herself received from Jane Morris of Compassionate Friends, with Elaine becoming interested in counselling.

To achieve her ambition, Elaine began her higher education journey in 2003, successfully completing a first class BSc (Hons) Psychology and Counselling degree course, before starting the MA course, which she says lead to the 'birth' of a new chapter within her 'broken' life.

Elaine said: "It will be a pretty long emotional walk to get to the 'stage' at graduation. Hopefully Natalie will be looking down on me and giving me the courage to take pride in what I have achieved since her death nine years ago.

"I hope my story shows that even in circumstances linked to the darkest depths of despair that some good can come out of such a tragedy. It's a painful process, but one that has to be endured in order to adjust to this major life change - a huge task within successful grief resolution."

Elaine praised both Susie Denton and Keith Baker along with the University team in the Support and Advisory Service who helped her early in her degree studies to identify that she had dyslexia and worked with her to overcome this barrier.

She also acknowledges the support she has been given by her lecturers including her tutor Dr Margaret Smith and her clinical supervisor Robert Wilson, whilst undertaking her Masters course at the University.

Robert said: "It has been a real privilege to work with Elaine over the past three years. I have found her work to be inspirational and I have been impressed by her personal drive and commitment in dealing with a sensitive as well as personal subject.

"The University of Derby works hard to support students achieve their academic and personal goals and is proud to have played a role in Elaine's significant achievements."

Elaine's undergraduate thesis was recently accepted by the 11 th Congress of the European Association for Palliative Care in Vienna for a poster presentation. Her postgraduate research has also informed the writing of a book chapter in collaboration with Dr Aimee Aubeeluck, in relation to bereavement support within palliative care. Aimee, who now works at the University of Nottingham, was Elaine's tutor at Derby and inspired her to work in this research area.

For more details contact Deputy Head of Corporate Relations Simon Redfern on 01332 591942 or 07748 920038 or email s.redfern@derby.ac.uk.

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