Need help with your Assignment?

Get a timely done, PLAGIARISM-FREE paper
from our highly-qualified writers!

The Theory of Chronic Sorrow

The Theory of Chronic Sorrow

Sorrow is a feeling of immense sadness that can hamper the cognitive, psychological, and physical functions of a person. The theory of chronic sorrow is among the theories that attempt to understand this feeling, postulating that sorrow is an inherent human reaction to a significant loss. The theory also suggests a model for controlling chronic sorrow. The theory of chronic sorrow is a useful model for comprehending sorrow and controlling the patients experiencing the condition.

The theory hypothesizes that chronic sorrow is an inherent and predictable human reaction to a significant loss. The hypothesis proposes that persistent sorrow requires an antecedent: an event or a situation that triggers sorrow as a reaction. The primary antecedent for chronic sorrow is loss (Hainsworth et al., 1998). Loss can be either sudden, such as the demise of a dear family member, or ongoing, such as a deteriorating health condition. The disparity is also a precursor of persistent sorrow, whereby a person who has experienced or is suffering from loss is confronted with a reality that is different from a previously idealized one (Hainsworth et al., 1998). The people who have experienced loss struggle to resolve this disparity, which leads to persistent sorrow. The unresolved disparity causes loss to be experienced in bits and pieces, which can recur over a long period because of the situations that remind of it. These situations are called trigger events and range depending on the type of loss. The theory proposes that chronic sorrow can be managed through internal and external measures, acknowledging that chronic sorrow is natural.

Before the theory’s formulation, the nursing profession and society largely regarded chronic sorrow as an illness. Furthermore, long-term sorrow was only associated with parents of disabled children and people with disabilities. With this perception, the individuals who experienced persistent sorrow because of sudden losses were not considered at-risk patients, which affected the management of their overall health.

The theory of chronic sorrow was formulated by Margaret Hainsworth, Georgene Eakes, and Mary L. Burke in the 1960s. In 1962, Olshansky first postulated chronic sorrow as a normal reaction to interferences of expected normalcy. Further research revealed that parents with disabled children and people with disorders experience long-term sorrow (Lindgren, 1996). Hainsworth and her colleagues used this research to formulate the hypothesis of chronic sorrow to address the misconceptions about sorrow that existed in the nursing culture and society. The theorists used interviews with 196 individuals and a literature review of previous models on the issue of chronic sorrow to formulate the hypothesis of chronic sorrow.

The theory of chronic sorrow contributed to the formulation of approaches toward detecting and handling chronic sorrow. The hypothesis dispelled misconceptions about the individuals at risk of chronic sorrow, which changed the way nurses and society perceive the condition. The theory has been helpful in the identification and management of chronic sorrow in patients diagnosed with cancer. Moreover, the theory has served as a conceptual framework for developing interventions that can be used by parents and nurses to manage chronic sorrow affecting the individuals in their care. Additionally, the theory has been used as a reference for research investigating the disparities in coping mechanisms between mothers and fathers of disabled children experiencing persistent sorrow. The research based on the hypothesis of chronic sorrow has been pivotal in advancing approaches to detecting and controlling the condition.

The strength and validity of a theory lies in its testability. One way to test the hypothesis of chronic sorrow is by examining the individuals at risk of suffering from chronic sorrow. The Burke Chronic Sorrow Questionnaire is a quantitative instrument comprised of an interview that can examine various dimensions of chronic sorrow (Eakes, 1995). Applying it to the theory could involve giving the questionnaire to at-risk individuals identified by the hypothesis of persistent sorrow. The questionnaire can be given before and after the management of chronic sorrow. The results will inform whether the at-risk individuals, as defined by the theory, experience chronic sorrow and whether the management measures suggested by the theory are beneficial to the afflicted.

The theory of chronic sorrow is important in understanding the causes of chronic sorrow. However, the hypothesis is not comprehensive because it does not explore the varied forms of losses and the cultural influence in the interpretation of losses. One of the assumptions of the hypothesis is that the only significant losses are constrained to circumscribe and ongoing losses. However, it can be argued that significant loss is subjective, depending on an individual’s personality as well as social and cultural influences. Nonetheless, the hypothesis is instructive in its postulations about how to handle chronic sorrow. The clarification that persistent sorrow is an inherent reaction to loss is important to prospective nurses because it advises them to be empathetic, which is an important aspect of nursing. The hypothesis will be important in my nursing career as it will determine my nursing techniques, particularly when it comes to dealing with convalescing parents, patients with disorders, and individuals who have experienced a sudden loss.


Eakes, G. G. (1995). Chronic sorrow: The lived experience of parents of chronically mentally ill individuals. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 9(2), 77-84.

Eakes, G. G., Burke, M. L., & Hainsworth, M. A. (1998). Middle‐range theory of chronic sorrow. Image: The Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 30(2), 179-184.

Lindgren, C. L. (1996). Chronic sorrow in persons with Parkinson’s and their spouses. Scholarly Inquiry for Nursing Practice, 10(4), 351-366.

Olshansky, S. (1962). Chronic sorrow: A response to having a mentally defective child. Social Casework, 43(4), 190-193


We’ll write everything from scratch


The purpose of this assignment is to explain how the Theory of Chronic Sorrow can be used as a framework for planning care and identifying resources in the following case:

The Theory of Chronic Sorrow

The Theory of Chronic Sorrow

You are a case manager for a family with a young child diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Explain how the Theory of Chronic Sorrow can be used as a framework for planning care and identifying resources for this family.

Order Solution Now