Narratives of bereaved couples' communication experiences after the death of someone close
Lindwall-Bourg, Karen L.
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ABSTRACT KAREN LINDWALL-BOURG NARRATIVES OF BEREAVED COUPLES’ COMMUNICATION EXPERIENCES AFTER THE DEATH OF SOMEONE CLOSE DECEMBER 2017 This qualitative research study examined the communication experiences of bereaved couples after the death of someone close in order to learn more about what family therapists need to know when working with these families. The theoretical foundation for this study was narrative theory. The research was designed using the phenomenological research approach in order to capture the couples’ rich meanings within their unique stories. Participants were recruited on a local, statewide, and national level. Purposive and snowball sampling yielded a sample of 18 couples, 11 of whom had experienced the death of a child, and 7 of whom had experienced the death of others close to them. Verbatim transcripts were read multiple times; several were hand-coded using a color-coded system, and all were categorized by content using the QSR NVivo 11® system software to discover common themes. After the analysis of the transcripts, the researcher believed she had captured the essence of each participant’s story. Two communication experience themes emerged from the final analysis of the interviewed data. Under the first of these umbrella themes—hindrances to communication about the death for the couple—were the concepts of grieving apart, avoiding emotional pain, and lack of experience. Under the second of these umbrella themes—help to communicating about the death for the couple—were the concepts of grieving together, having strong faith, verbal and non-verbal communication, and helping others. Direct quotations from the participants’ narratives give voice to their lived experiences and illustrate each theme. In qualitative research, the researcher is part of the instrument. This study was conducted by a woman widowed at age 35 with three small children to raise who is also a family therapist. The researcher’s voice was included in Chapter Five to provide transparency for the research process and to describe some of the effects this study had on her spiritually and professionally. The results of the study were compared with a review of the literature. Conclusions were drawn, and implications for bereaved couples and for family therapists working with similar families are provided. Recommendations for future research and for the field of family therapy are discussed.