MA Counselling Psychology Thesis Defence
Grieving Together: An Ethnography of Relational Grief in Community
by: Ben Bentum
Supervisor: Dr. Derrick Klaassen
Second Reader: Dr. Janelle Kwee
External Examiner: Dr. Terry Lynn Gall, Professor, St. Paul University, Ottawa, Ontario
Exam Chair: TBA
This study makes an initial foray into the study of community relational grief by addressing how community members grieve together and reciprocally interact during bereavement. The question guiding this project was, how does a religious community grieve the death of members together? A focussed ethnography was used as the plan of inquiry and included additional triangulation and data collection techniques. The data was analyzed using the constant comparative method and was presented back to the community in a performance ethnography for confirmation and further data collection. The result of this iterative research process was a contextually situated description of how this religious community in western Canada grieved the deaths of three community members. The four main themes that were constructed out of the research process were that: (a) community members desired to care for the bereaved, (b) community members assessed relational proximity to the bereaved and the deceased to inform action according to role expectations in bereavement, (c) community members grieved together, being impacted and impacting each other reciprocally, and (d) community members grieved, and interacted, according to their own unique characteristics and experiences. The description of multidimensional reciprocal grief interactions between community members and the bereaved was novel. The description of community members’ contextualized internal experience of a member’s death was also unique. The results of this study add to the growing body of literature surrounding a relational understanding of grief. The implications for bereavement theory, research and practice were discussed.