Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PhD)


College of Psychology

First Advisor

Paula Brochu

Second Advisor

Christian DeLucia

Third Advisor

Diana Formoso

Fourth Advisor

Jessica Valenzuela


COVID-19, grief, ritual modifications, social support


Bereavement is a universal experience. Presently, there have been over 1,024,611 deaths in the United States alone related to the COVID-19 virus and this number is growing (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022). With the significant rise in deaths, as well as subsequent societal health and safety measures due to the pandemic, social support for the bereaved is expected to be severely impacted. Limited access to social spheres, as well as adjustments to typical funeral practices, may impact the perception of support by those grieving. The purpose the study was to gain a better understanding of bereaved individual’s experiences of grief when traditional mourning rituals are interrupted during a life-threatening pandemic. This study aimed to examine how COVID-19 impacted perceived social support while grieving and the association between social support and grief symptomatology during the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants who experienced the death of a loved one since January 2020 (N =152) were recruited from various social media pages, including online support pages and non-profit organizations dedicated to providing grief support, and completed an anonymous online survey. The survey consisted of measures for grief symptomatology (Prigerson et al., 2021), perceived social support while grieving (Hogan & Schmidt, 2016), and questions created for this study related to social support, mourning ritual modifications, and perceived COVID-19 impact. The study showed there was a significant negative association between perceived impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and satisfaction with social support during mourning rituals. However, results showed no significant association between perceived COVID-19 impact and perceived social support while grieving. The study found perceived social support while grieving and satisfaction with social support during mourning rituals were significantly negatively associated with grief symptomatology over and above age, gender, race/ethnicity, death related factors (i.e., cause of death and time since death), emotional closeness, and total number of ritual modifications made by the bereaved. These findings suggest that social support is essential to bereavement outcomes during a life-threatening pandemic. This has the potential to improve clinical directions and encourage interventions focused on building social support networks for the bereaved. This study’s findings and their implications are discussed.

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