Preferred Name

Nour Salem

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Department of Graduate Psychology


Anne Stewart

Kelly Atwood

Cara Meixner


Parental death is prevalent during childhood, and the emotional, social, and behavioral effects on children’s development are well-documented. Although there is extensive literature on grief in children, most studies on children’s grief have obtained data about children’s experiences though collateral interviews with parents or caregivers, from adults who lost a parent as a child, or through quantitative measures with children and caregivers. Few studies have implemented a qualitative exploration of parental death by asking bereaved children. The objective of the current study was to involve parentally bereaved children in responding to the research question, “what is it like to lose a parent to death?” This was explored through five semi-structured one- on-one interviews with children between the ages of seven and eleven. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used to analyze and interpret the data. Six themes emerged that helped elucidate the experience of losing a parent to death: 1) Grief is a meaning making process, 2) Grief is a complex emotional process, 3) Death is “taking mommy away”, 4) “Lost but still remembered”, 5) “I remember...” the announcement of death, and 6) Grief is supported through attuned relationships. The results from this study are explored in light of previous research on children’s grief, attachment theory, and resilience theory. The study offers new insights into children’s experiences of parental death including the significance of death on a child’s life, the importance of time on healing, and the importance of honoring children’s expertise and following their lead.



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