A time to be silent and a time to speak: intergenerational family narrative and father loss before birth

Chaya Possick, Shani Pitcho-Prelorentzos, Michal Mahat-Shamir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This qualitative study explored the intergenerational family narratives around loss and bereavement as perceived by 12 Israeli adults, whose fathers died before they were born. Using the interpretative phenomenological analysis approach, the intergenerational narrative process was examined as it appeared in in-depth, semi-structured interviews. Three phases of this process were identified: (1) the first generation: establishing the rule of silence, (2) the second generation: obeying the rule of silence, and (3) the third generation: breaking the rule of silence. The discussion presents a nuanced examination of the functions of silence in family narration in the case of traumatic loss, its impact on children whose fathers died before they were born, and the notion of the timing and processing of intergenerational dialogues of loss between grandparents, parents, children, and grandchildren. Practical implications include the importance of recognizing the need for a careful balance between silence and speech, both for the family as a unit and for its grieving members. Also, family therapists should consider incorporating three-generation therapy sessions in cases of parent loss in general, and father loss before birth in particular.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)525-542
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Family Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Family narrative
  • father loss
  • intergenerational transmission of trauma
  • orphanhood
  • trauma narrative

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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