Disenfranchised Grief

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  • The Unwed Widow: Unmarried Partnership Loss Presented byDr. Brenda-Joyce G. Orozco Markert-Green

  • Purpose/Goals of the StudyTo identify the needs of women who had experienced the death of a partner to whom she was not marriedTo examine whether women who experience the death of a partner to whom she is not married experience disenfranchised griefTo identify what services or program activities could be developed to meet those needs

  • Theoretical Conceptual FrameworkConceptual/Theoretical TriangulationSymbolic Interaction TheorySocial ConstructionismNarrative TheoryTo obtain the most in-depth understanding of the experiences of the experiences of the participants

  • Symbolic Interaction TheoryInteractions among people consist in society in organized and patterned ways, and that those events contain meanings that are relevant to how people act and the roles that they are expected to take on (Blumer, 1969)Human interactions result in definitions about the world that are socially constructed based upon those interactions (Berger & Luckman, 1966)

  • Social ConstructionismThere is not an objective reality, but reality is constructed through people languaging together (Gergen, 1994)Meaning is found in societal practices (Gergen, 2001), and reality is constructed in the context of society (Schwandt, 2000)

  • Narrative TheoryThe stories that people tell shape their lives (White & Epston, 1990)Peoples realities are constructed through their social systems as well as through their language, their realities are organized and maintained through the stories that they tell, and they contain no essential truths (Freedman & Combs, 1996)

  • Description of the ProblemCurrent grief programs provide program components that are able to deal with grief in general, but do not target disenfranchised populations Although grief programs helpful in some ways, disenfranchised grief creates unique needs that call for specialized programs specific to those needs

  • Review of the LiteratureIndividuals are expected to detach from the deceased and to sever the emotional ties with the deceased in order to get over the death and to move on with life (Hajal, 1977; Hedtke, 1999; Baker, 2001; Bonanno et al., 2005) Goal is to break ties with the deceased Individuals who dont, get stuck in the mourning process because of the attachment to the deceased (Freud, 1917)Results in complications for the individual (Hajal, 1977; Hedtke, 1999; Baker, 2001; Bonanno et al., 2005; Turner, Wieling, & Boss, 2002)

  • Individuals who dont, get stuck in the mourning process because of the attachment to the deceased (Freud, 1917)Results in complications for the individual (Hajal, 1977; Hedtke, 1999; Baker, 2001; Bonanno et al., 2005; Turner, Wieling, & Boss, 2002)

  • Individuals responding outside of expected parameters defined as being pathologicalOften labeled as being avoidant or in denial about the loss (Temes, 1991; Kalich & Brabant, 2006), or defined as acting abnormally to the loss (Wortman & Silver, 1989)

  • Social Support from friends and community sources instrumental in loss (Riley, LaMontagne, Hepworth, & Murphy, 2007). There are many different populations that fall under the category of disenfranchised grievers (Doka, 1989; Fuller, Geis, & Rush, 1989; Tross & Hirsch, 1988; Cave, 2000)

  • RationaleThe loss of an unmarried romantic partner poses a risk for disenfranchised grief, since the romantic commitment is viewed by society as less significant than either cohabitation or marriage (Wolfelt, 1990; Kazmarek, & Backlund, 1991).

  • Overview of StudyPhase OneIndividual interviewsSharing story of lossHow others responded to lossDegree to which participant felt consoled and understood by othersWhat would have been helpful

  • Eligibility CriteriaMust be female and have experienced the death of a partner to whom they were not marriedBe at least 21 years of age for participation in study may have been any age at the time of the lossExperienced a romantic relationship with the deceased of at least 1-year in duration

  • Data Collection17 participants3 responded to advertisements1 result of snowballing13 participant due to word of mouthInterviews set for 2 hours10 primary questions

  • AnalysisPhase TwoAnalysis of interviews phenomenological approachInterviews audio taped and transcribed, then coded to find emergent themes

  • Open CodingInternal/Private mourningSecretsYearning for deceasedGuilt/RegretFeeling stuck in relationshipsPartner comparisonSpiritualityDisconnectedness from family/partners familyAvoidance of pain/ blocking out lossAmbivalence/ambiguityThey (others) dont get itNo cohesive terminologyPartner blessingLack of servicesFairy tale partnerCeremonies/rituals/ representation of deceased

  • Larger CategoriesRelieved support of family, spirituality, societal acknowledgment lackingUnreceptive support of family, spirituality, partner blessing, societal acknowledgment lackingUnacknowledged support of family, support of partners family, spirituality, partner blessing, societal acknowledgment mixed

  • Axial CodingWomen who experience death of partner to whom she is not married experience disenfranchised griefSupport system needs vary according to situationUnique treatment needs

  • ResultsFour primary areas of needSocietal acknowledgmentCoping writing letters, talking to the deceasedSpirituality symbols of comfort utilizing clients belief systemConnection with the deceased through family based on loss situation

  • Prototype ProgramTarget populationWomen who experience the death of a partner to whom they are not marriedPurposeMeet the needs of women who have experienced disenfranchised grief by creating a program specific to their stated/identified needs

  • Goals/ObjectivesReduce the feelings of isolation Provide education about grief and grief processProvide assistance regarding appropriate grief expressionAssist in moving forward in grief process

  • LimitationsFocused solely on women not generalizableSocial construction another researcher may find different results/another set of respondents, different resultsParticipants ethnically homogeneous 94.7% Caucasian, 5.3% African-American

  • Participant pool 5% snowballing, 16% advertisements, 79% word of mouthTwo categories Unreceptive and Relieved represented by one participant in each categoryAll participant loss heterosexual loss

  • Conclusions/RecommendationsAdds to the limited body of literature on disenfranchised populationClinicians can begin to be trained in providing services related to loss of partner in unmarried relationships for womenLead to research and development in other disenfranchised populations

  • Study validates experiences of disenfranchisement for women who lose a partner to whom they are not marriedStudy validates construct of grief for women in these relationships

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