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ERIC Number: ED556069
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 246
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-3035-4438-5
A Phenomenological Approach to Uncovering the Essence of Grieving Experiences of Undergraduates
Bergene, Lisa Beth
ProQuest LLC, Ed.D. Dissertation, North Carolina State University
Past studies have suggested that during their time on campus, as many as half of all undergraduates will experience the death of a loved one (Balk, 2001; Balk, Walker, & Baker, 2010; Holland & Neimeyer, 2010). The purpose of this study was to use a phenomenological method to uncover a thick, rich description of the lived experience of grieving among college undergraduates. Seven undergraduates took part in this study. Inclusion criteria required participants to have experienced the loss of a loved one within the past year. The participants in this study experienced the death of parents, close friends, a grandparent, or an uncle. Phenomenological method was used to collect and analyze data. Participants completed two semi-structured interviews and a final meeting to review and confirm initial findings. Interview transcripts were reduced into units of meaning. Units of meaning expressing a similar experience were grouped together into clusters. Participants were asked to review and refine these clusters to ensure they accurately expressed their experiences. Findings of the study can be grouped into four areas: (1) the influence of others on the experience of grieving, (2) the experience of adjusting to new roles and responsibilities, (3) innermost thoughts and feelings, and (4) moving forward after loss. Participants revealed that the feeling of being alone, even amongst thousands of classmates, was a prominent part of the lived experience of grieving. By the same token, peers who were present and consistent in expressing care and concern were an important source of support. Participants described the experience of taking on new responsibilities, such as planning the memorial service or managing family finances. They considered questions about moving on after loss, often re-prioritizing goals and values. Three conclusions are suggested based on the findings of this study. The first conclusion is that academic goals were reframed through the experience of meaning-making. A prominent aspect of the grieving process for these students was the search for a resolution between their way of understanding the world and the meaning they attributed to their loss. Through meaning-making, participants engaged in a re-prioritization of important goals and beliefs. For some participants, academic goals and career ambitions changed as a result of the meaning-making process. The second conclusion suggested that participants assumed the campus community would be supportive. Participants judged the actions of some peers, faculty, or staff to be dismissive of their distress. At times, responses from peers were perceived as insincere or insensitive. The third conclusion suggested that participants underestimated the period of grieving. Although painful thoughts and emotions occurred less frequently, the intensity did not diminish. Based on these findings, future research should further explore assumptions students make about the way that classmates, faculty, and staff will respond to their grieving experience. Additionally, learning more about similarities and differences in how religious and non-religious students make meaning of loss would help explain the differing ways that students may understand death and experience grief. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A