Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Andrea D. Clements

Committee Members

Jon Ellis, Eric Sellers, Stacey Williams


The circumstances of responding to loss due to human death are among the most stressful experiences encountered in life. Although grief’s symptoms are typically considered essential to their gradual diminishment, possible negative impacts of complications related to grief are also well known, and have been associated with detriments to mental and physical health. Grief, however, can also generate transformative positive change. Thus, albeit ineludible, responding to loss is not uniformly experienced, expressed, or understood. It is also culturally-shaped, making attempts to define “normal” grief, as well as to label some grief “abnormal”—and to medicalize it—possibly problematic. Bereavement (the situation surrounding a death) and mourning (the publicly expressed response to loss due to death) are changing. Some of these changes (e.g., the increase in hospice care settings prior to deaths, and alterations in the ritual responses following all deaths—irrespective of their context) may have important implications for avoiding grief’s possible complications and for promoting its potential benefits. An improved alignment of grief theory, research, and practice is warranted; but theories of grief are diverse, and historically have not been empirically well-supported. This research articulates a new grief model, the loss-processing framework, featuring three dimensional components (perception, orientation, and direction). As a first step toward validation of the framework, also included is an empirical study examining retrospective descriptive reports of adult loss response relating to the first of these three dimensions (perception). As an interpretive, translational approach to understanding grief, the loss-processing framework may serve to positively impact grieving, health, and life quality.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.