Clergywomen and Grief: Local Church Pastors and Their Experiences




Howe Miller, Sarah Elizabeth

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Texas Woman s University


The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the experiences of clergywomen who have had times of personal grief in the midst of professional responsibilities within a local church context specifically as it related to officiating "hard funerals" for non-family members. Using a Narrative approach, the researcher interviewed 11 clergywomen. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed. Three main themes emerged. The predominant theme was Overarching Responsibility which included many aspects of officiating and planning funerals, and pastoral care with families. The second theme was Plans for Processing Grief which addressed the various ways the clergywomen handled their own grief. The third theme was Women as Clergy in which the clergywomen made note of gender differences in ministry. Recommendations for further study by academia, more continuing education of clergy, and raising of awareness for the laity are made. A proposal of a new term, Numinous Grief, for clergy who appropriately hold expressions of grief while officiating services or other duties relating to their professional role and, at another time, may appropriately cry with a family.



Individual & family studies, Religion