Department of Family Therapy Dissertations and Applied Clinical Projects

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Family Therapy


Tommie V. Boyd

Committee Member

Christine Beliard

Committee Member

Robert Oller


This study examined the experiences of Hospice Bereavement Coordinators (HBCs) and Hospice Chaplains working with grief narratives from patient-family units exhibiting signs of anticipatory or complicated grief. While a significant amount of research has been conducted on Hospice employees, no qualitative studies have examined the interpretation of meaning from employees whose primary role focused on the psychosocial-spiritual aspects of clients exhibiting anticipatory or complicated grief. The researcher identified shared meaning of death, trauma, and loss from six participants in the context of a high stress and high loss environment. This study‘s findings revealed ten central themes: Death is an earthly transition to immortality; Death is an intense progression; Trauma is an interpretive response to a bad experience; Trauma highlights quality of life; Loss is an adaptation to change; Loss highlights self-awareness about mortality; Cases impact views of death, trauma, and loss; Influences of spirituality; Stressful aspects of working in hospice settings; and Methods of coping.

Through this study, the researcher captured five elements of the shared phenomena: the conflicting nature of anticipatory or complicated grief with the participant‘s interpretation of death; the acknowledgement of loss as the next stage for survivors of the deceased; the instability patient-family units exhibiting anticipatory or complicated grief faced; the role of faith; and the proactive efforts of participants to create a balance between work and their personal life. These meanings contributed to the continued need for future qualitative studies whereby the lived experiences of Hospice employees could be expressed to assist with the development of structured training programs specific to the requirements outlined by the nature of their work.

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