Citation
Re-socialization of the bereaved via interpersonal communication techniques

Material Information

Title:
Re-socialization of the bereaved via interpersonal communication techniques
Creator:
Werner, Teresa Anne
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Publisher:
University of Colorado Denver
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
ix, 139 leaves : forms ; 28 cm

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Bereavement -- Psychological aspects ( lcsh )
Bereavement -- Social aspects ( lcsh )
Communication -- Psychological aspects ( lcsh )
Communication -- Social aspects ( lcsh )
Bereavement -- Psychological aspects ( fast )
Bereavement -- Social aspects ( fast )
Communication -- Psychological aspects ( fast )
Communication -- Social aspects ( fast )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 136-139).
Thesis:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Arts, Communication
General Note:
Department of Communication
Statement of Responsibility:
by Teresa Anne Werner.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
36401648 ( OCLC )
ocm36401648
Classification:
LD1190.L48 1996m .W47 ( lcc )

Downloads

This item has the following downloads:


Full Text
RE-SOCIALIZATION OF THE BEREAVED
VIA INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUES
by
Teresa Anne Werner
B.A., Metropolitan State College of Denver, 1993
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Communication
1996


1996 by Teresa Anne Werner
All rights reserved.


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Teresa Anne Werner
Michael Monsour

Date


Wemer, Teresa Anne (M.A., Communication)
Re-Socialization of the Bereaved via Interpersonal Communication Techniques
Thesis directed by Professor Jon A. Winterton
ABSTRACT
This research focused on the communication behavior of bereaved
individuals using the ethnography of communication methodology. From the
eight individuals interviewed, three main bereavement communication
categories emerged and were described; Private Interaction, Impersonal
Interaction, and Interpersonal Interaction. Two supplementary communication
techniques were then posited in order to facilitate communication within those
categories. The methodology proved to be a useful tool in elucidating the
categories of communication behavior utilized by the bereaved and was also
found to be effective in facilitating bereavement communication.
IV


DEDICATION
This project is dedicated to those who have gone before us;
L.Z., TEX T.
DANNY M.
JUSTIN RAY
BILLW.
BILLC.
ANNM.
FRANK ALLEN
and to all of those who will remain after us.
Share with us our sadness, and we will share with you our joys.
Unknown


CONTENTS
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION.................................... 1
Operational Definitions........ ............ 1
Problem Statement........................... 3
Thesis Development................. ........ 5
2. LITERATURE REVIEW............................... 7
Psychological Aspects of Bereavement........ 7
Definitions of Grief.................. 8
Stages of Grief....................... 9
Bereaved Relationships................. 11
Sociological Aspects of Bereavement.......... 12
Complexity of Grief.................... 12
Social Systems of Support.............. 14
Communication Aspects of Bereavement......... 19
Initiation Difficulties................ 20
Narration as a Bereavement
Communication Model.....................24
vi


3. RESEARCH METHOD................................... 27
Research Design............................... 27
Participant Demographics...................... 31
Procedure..................................... 32
4. THE RESULTS....................................... 35
Communication Behavior........................ 36
Private Interaction..................... 37
Impersonal Interaction.................. 38
Interpersonal Interaction............... 40
Variables Influencing
Bereavement Communication..................... 41
Type of Death............................41
Length of Time Since Death.............. 43
Type of Relationship.................... 45
Relationships of Individuals Involved
in Bereavement Communication............ 47
The Positing of Specific
Communication Techniques...................... 51
Desire for Outside Initiation........... 54
The Non-Negotiable Topic.................55
Two Techniques of Communication......... 56
Conclusion of Results......................... 60
vii


5. DISCUSSION.................................. 66
The Speech Community...................... 66
Communication Patterns.................... 67
Private Interaction................. 68
Impersonal Interaction.............. 68
Interpersonal Interaction........... 69
Interaction with Other Cultural Systems... 69
Critique.................................. 71
Strengths........................... 71
Weaknesses.......................... 74
Implications for Future Research.......... 75
APPENDIX................................................. 78
A. INFORMED CONSENT FORM........................... 78
B. QUESTIONS FOR THE INTERVIEW..................... 80
C. THE ACCOUNTS.................................... 81
D. CONFIRMATION OF
INTERVIEW INTERPRETATION....................... 135
REFERENCES............................................... 136
Vlll


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
With great appreciation, I would like to acknowledge the faculty and
staff of the Department of Communication at the University of Colorado at
Denver for their patience and immeasurable support for this project. I am
eminently indebted to my advisor, Jon Winterton, for his ceaseless enthusiastic
encouragement to reach beyond my perceived limitations, and to my committee
members; Benita Dilley for her unwavering guidance and assiduous confidence
in my abilities, Carl Johnson for his amiable reassurances and commitment to
my development as a scholarly individual, and Mike Monsour for his
unmediated compassion and regard for the completion of this project.
I would also like to extend the depth of my appreciation to the
participants in this research; DC, JLS, KLS, MSK, MRF, RMT, JT, & ST.
Without their wisdom of insight and gracious willingness to share their deepest
losses, this project would not have been possible.
A final acknowledgment of appreciation for my assistant editors, DFW
and JAS, whose keen eyes added to the development of this project.
IX


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
The purpose of this research is to explore the communication dynamics
experienced between bereaved individuals and their extended network of
friends and co-workers. By a close examination of communication
experienced between these two groups of individuals, this research intends to
elucidate a technique of interpersonal communication that will facilitate a
bereaved individuals comfortable re-entry into their social system and at the
same time provide guidelines for individuals in the extended network that will
aid their own level of comfort in communicating with the bereaved upon their
re-entry.
Operational Definitions
For the purpose of this research, the following operational definitions
will apply:
Bereaved: Those individuals who can be categorized as a spouse, parent,
sibling, or child of the deceased.
Extended friends/co-workers: Any individual who has no direct relationship
1


with the deceased, yet maintains a social or business relationship with
the bereaved. These individuals will also be called the non-bereaved.
Direct relationship: A biological connection and/or personal connection with
the deceased, developed either socially or related to business.
Interpersonal communication: Any direct communication contact, oral,
written, or non-verbal, between two individuals.
Re-socialization/re-entry: The attempt of the bereaved individual to return to
meeting the demands of their pre-bereavement daily activities, including
work or social activities, and commencing after the death rituals for
their loved one have been completed.
Co-workers/ffiends comfort level in communication re-entry: The ability to
initiate communication at an interpersonal level with the bereaved about
their experience of the loss of their loved one through death.
Bereaveds comfort level in communication re-entry: The ability for
the bereaved to initiate the expression of the facts surrounding, or their
emotions concerning, their experience of the loss of their loved one
through death.
These operational definitions are offered in order to clarify the individuals
involved in the communication event of initiating conversation about the
bereaveds experience of loss in reference to the process of re-socialization.
2


Problem Statement
The event of death may be experienced as a result of one of many
forms; accidental death, suicidal death, slow terminal-illness death, unexpected
illness death or homicidal death. The ways in which bereaved individuals deal
with the death of a loved one as a result of any one of the previously
mentioned forms is as diverse as the American culture. However, across the
diversity, one universal concept remains stable; the impact ones loss has on
their communication with extended family, friends and co-workers.
Within the social network of the bereaved, the ability to communicate
about the death is often temporarily disabled. For most individuals, this
inability to communicate increases the stress surrounding such an event.
Rarely, at any other event in the life of an individual, does such a
communication dilemma occur. The need to communicate at a time of
bereavement is critical to the well being of the bereaved; interpersonal
communication can serve to validate their experience of loss and also validate
their status as a continuing, functional, and stable member of their social
network.
Communication, as a reciprocal process, becomes doubly disabled at
this life and death experience because the individuals involved in the reciprocity
become communicationally disabled. The bereaved report discomfort in
3


initiating their profound grief; they do not want to burden others with the
sadness that permeates their life. The extended family, friends and co-workers
report discomfort in initiating communication fearing the possibility of adding
further pain to the sadness and discomfort already experienced by the
bereaved. Therefore, neither individual is comfortable in initiating
communication and communication is thereby impaired.
This communication difficulty is experienced to some degree by all
individuals touched by the death of an individual; from immediate family to
acquaintances in the outer social network. However, the focus of this research
will specifically examine the extended network of individuals that constitute the
social web in which the bereaved previously interacted on a regular basis. The
necessity for the focus of this research to exclude those extended individuals
who have had a direct relationship with the deceased is because their
communication with the bereaved will also be influenced by their own sense of
direct personal loss. Therefore, the intent of this research is to examine only
the communication difficulty that exists when one communication participant
has no direct experience of loss in the death of the bereaveds love one, but
must somehow find a way to communicate with the bereaved, on a regular
basis, within their common social network.
4


This researcher suggests, that with careful and systematic review of the
literature combined with in-depth interviews involving individuals with
bereavement experiences, some type of general interpersonal technique can be
elucidated that will decrease the communication stress and provide comfortable
levels for initiating communication in death related life events for both the
bereaved and their extended friends and co-workers. This descriptive study
has three goals: 1) Provide a description of currently experienced
communication behavior associated with bereavement; 2) Identify important
variables influencing bereavement communication; and 3) The positing of
specific interpersonal communication techniques that may initiate and facilitate
communication about grief and loss for both the bereaved and non-bereaved.
Thesis Development
To begin to comprehend the context in which the communication
disability occurs, literature from the fields of psychology, sociology, and
communication will be reviewed. From the psychological perspective, an
understanding of the bereavement process for an individual will be addressed.
A sociological perspective will provide the scope of social support systems and
their place in the context of bereavement. The communication perspective will
address the communicative interaction difficulties experienced by the bereaved,
5


their family and friends, and the non-bereaved. Then a review of literature
directly relating to the overall viability of specific interpersonal bereavement
communication techniques will be addressed. From this premise, a
ethnographic method of interview inquiry will be implemented to explore
possible interpersonal communication techniques that have been beneficial or
harmful to the bereaved in their process of re-socialization. The implications
and potential for implementing a specific interpersonal communication
technique for the bereaved and their extended friends and co-workers will then
be discussed in reference to the advantages and possible obstacles for future
research in this area.
6


CHAPTER 2
LITERATURE REVIEW
A systematic review of the literature was accomplished using the
CARL System, the UnCover System, Psychological Abstracts, and
Communication Abstracts. Articles and books dealing with the religious or
philosophical aspects of death were purposively omitted from this research due
to the focus on interpersonal communication about loss. Communication
about the death of a loved one has some impact upon all individuals across the
boundaries of religious or philosophical choices, if only because individuals
across all religious or philosophical boundaries may find communication about
their loss necessary with individuals who may not share those same religious or
philosophical choices. Therefore, the focus here is not the religious or
philosophical foundations that best sustain the bereaved during their time of
loss. The focus is on the techniques of interpersonal communication that can
facilitate all of those involved in the re-socialization of the bereaved.
Psychological Aspects of Bereavement
In the field of psychology, bereavement has been studied in respect to
an individuals personal experience of the loss of a loved one. A large amount
7


of research has been conducted concerning the psychological aspects of the
dying individual and their ability to communicate about their imminent death
with their loved ones. Then, after the individuals death, psychology examines
the remaining loved ones experience of sadness or depression due to their loss.
This sadness or depression has been labeled grief and/or bereavement.
Definitions of Grief
In 1994, Copp described grief as an individuals life pain [that]
compounds itself [and] has three tenses: remembered pain, experienced pain
and anticipated pain (p. 222). This description of grief elucidates the
complexity of emotionality experienced by the bereaved. In considering the
bereaveds attempt to re-establish themselves after a personal loss, they still
remember the pain stemming from their initial loss; they experience pain in the
remembering of the loss; and they anticipate further pain knowing they must
adjust to a social world that no longer includes their loved one. Included in
this complex definition of grief is the concept that the grieving person
undergoes an intrapersonal fundamental change. Copp suggested that the
emotionality of grief is a pain of inner growth [from which] one never returns
to the presuffering state with all that it may signify (p. 236). This
intrapersonal change results from a circumstantial change that brings about a
8


shift in identity at the intrapersonal level (Silverman, 1994, p. 241).
Subsequently, there is evidence to suggest that the experience of grief is not a
voluntary emotional choice; rather, grief is conceived in an uncontrollable
circumstantial event that has a personal, life changing impact.
Stages of Grief
The compartmentalized stages of bereavement, from initial shock,
through denial, protest, anger, depression, and eventual renewal, are well
documented in the field of Psychology (e.g., Kubler-Ross, 1969; Parkes, 1972;
Sanders, 1989; Shuchter & Zisook, 1993; Worden, 1982). Cochran & Claspell
(1987) refer to the stages of grief as a story with a beginning, middle, and
end. It begins with a devastating loss and ends with a reorientation to living
(p. 93). The psychological literature intending to aid individuals in times of
grief has historically focused on these categorical stages of grief. Miles &
Demi (1994) documented the historically accepted duration of these stages of
grief and found that grief was perceived as a long-term process in the
beginning of the century; considered a short term crisis in the forties through
the sixties; and is now perceived as a long term process again. Yet, no matter
how fluctuating the duration of grief has been perceived, grieving remains
conceptualized as an individual process, continuing through stages, with
9


general agreement in the belief that the bereaved will eventually recover from
their grief and return to a pre-bereavement state of existence.
Keith (1981) addressed a concern about grief as a process of stages in
educational literature:
Among those who study and read about the subject of death, there is an
expectation that [through a cognitive understanding of the stages of
grief] they can immunize themselves from the impact of a death and
thus can escape the feelings of acute grief, (p. 202)
And yet, as Silverman (1995) explained, death is the universal stressor to
which we all need to learn to respond (p. 245). Evans (cited in Corr, 1995)
stated this categorization dilemma most succinctly: We have created systems
which protect us in the aggregate from facing up to the very things that as
individuals we most need to know (p. 354).
Kastenbaum (1982) argued that the socially accepted construct of grief
categories denies individuals and society the emotionality of grief and at the
same time implies that complete emotional recovery can be expected at the
concluding stage so that life may return to normal. Silverman, (1994) provided
further insight and indicated that the categorization of grief into stages ignores
the identity shift.. .and does not recognize the fundamental change that the
death introduces into the life of the mourner (p.248). Silverman emphasized
that grief should not be conceptualized as an illness that can be avoided and
10


from which recovery should be expected to the extent that people will pick up
their lives and carry on as before (p. 247).
Bereaved Relationships
In addition to the problematic construct of stages that serve to contain
bereavement as an illness initiated by crisis, another complexity of bereavement
is overlooked. Bereavement is not solely contained within the individual. The
human being does not exist in isolation. Humans are bom into relationships
and die within relationships.
We all desperately need to belong, whether it be with one other or with
a whole host of others. The sense of being a part of something is as
vital to life as food or sleep. (Sanders, 1989, p. 232)
However, the psychological categorization of bereavement isolates the grief
experience within the individual, creating an individualistic isolated emotional
problem. In this respect, psychology only offers the intrapersonal scope of
grief. How individuals cope with their grief as an identity shift also involves
the re-construction of their social relationships through interaction. Identity is
more than an individualistic construction, it is also a social phenomenon of
interaction. In summary, Silverman (1994) stated:
Grieving, then, is a social process, more than simply dealing with
feelings. It may better be characterized as a critical period of transition.
The transition ends when the individual has developed a new sense of
self and assumed a new role in society, (p. 247)
11


Therefore, a further review of sociological and communication literature is
required in order to grasp the interpersonal scope of bereavement and the
problems encountered in the re-socialization process.
Sociological Aspects of Bereavement
There is sufficient evidence in the literature to indicate that the concept
of bereavement is extensively more than an individualistic experience. At the
veiy least, Cochran & Claspell (1987) note that there seems to be a social
timetable for grief that requires one to snap out of it on time (p.74). This
social component, whatever the depth of involvement, adds to the complexity
of grief.
Complexity of Grief
In 1972, Parkes explained there are actually two specific aspects related
to death; the physical death and the social death. Furthermore, Parkes
suggested physical death and social death do not take place simultaneously
(p. 156). After the physical death of a loved one, bereavement not only
consists of dealing with the pain of personal loss, but also entails the process of
realizing that the experience of a social death is unfolding: Death involves not
just the bereaved family but also the significant [social] others of the dead and
12


their relatives (Pine, 1974, p. 34). According to Blauner (cited in Pine, p.
34), mortality tends to disrupt the ongoing life of social groups and
relationships [and] all societies must develop some forms of containing the
impact. Therefore, death and bereavement can be considered a social
phenomena necessitating some social responsibility in managing the impacts.
Bowen (1978) defined the emotional complexity of grief in a social
context: No life event can stir more emotionally directed thinking in the
individual and more emotional reactiveness in those about him [sic] (p. 322).
Rosenblatt (1993) added to this social complexity: Grief may reflect not only
the loss itself, but also the loss of the foundation for dealing with the loss (p.
102). Carse (1981) accentuated the necessity to emphasize that grief.. .drives
us to the formidable task of reassembling a new universe (p. 5). In their 1993
review, Shuchter & Zisook stated:
It should not be surprising that persons living through what is likely to
be the most profoundly disruptive experience in their life are subject to
dramatic changes in the ways in which they perceive themselves and the
world around them. (p. 40).
The aftermath of an individuals bereavement extends into that individuals
social network in such a manner that the effects, compounding with each wave
of interaction, become so complex as to render any emotional resolution a
seemingly hopeless situation. Systems of support develop to soften and dilute
the emotional impact for the bereaved and their social networks.
13


Social Systems of Support
Kalish (1985) suggested the ways in which we mourn are heavily
influenced by our culture (p. 182). In managing and dealing with grief within
the American culture, three general support systems have been identified; the
professional support system, the interpersonal friends & family support system,
and the extended support system of casual acquaintances. Yet even with three
social systems of support, according to Kastenbaum (1981), the American
culture is not adequately performing the function of managing the impacts of
mortality. This was evidenced through observations about the reduction in
conspicuous signs of mourning [due to] a mass, efficiency-oriented society
which consequently inhibited any social management of the impact of grief. In
other words, in the American culture, mourning gets in the way (p. 232).
This view is further supported by Keith (1981):
At a time when man [sicl needs stabilizing behavior patterns more than
ever to resolve grief, it is ironic that there are efforts to minimize the
ritual and context of responses to a death, (p. 205)
To comprehend the extent and management of grief via support systems in the
American culture, the three support systems will be reviewed.
Professional Support. Professional social support for the bereaved has
traditionally consisted of the counseling by religious leaders, mediated support
groups, hospice, and/or personal psychological counseling. Professional
14


support systems have been reported to have some advantages in helping the
bereaved who seek their services (e.g., Miles & Demi). Even so, there are
conflicting views about the actual viability of professional support systems. In
favor of the professional systems, Vachon & Stylianos (1988) acknowledged
the importance of pre-existing personal relationships in helping the bereaved,
but cautioned that the impact of the death could draw the entire group into
distress and render the interpersonal support process ineffective (p. 175). On
the other hand, Shuchter (1986) cautioned that professional support systems
can have a negative impact on the bereaved:
While the relationships with other bereaved people [or professional
counselors] may provide a unique sanctuary in which to open ones
deepest feelings.. .these relationships can become stultifying... when
they become limited to the sharing of grief experiences, (p. 225)
In addition, Kubler-Ross (1969) submitted that not all individuals have access
to professional support systems or may be able to afford professional support
even if they have access.
Interpersonal Relationship Support. In reference to traditional
interpersonal relationships as a major source of support for the bereaved,
Gottlieb (1981) investigated the social support systems in communities and
found that the social distance between the system and the individual in need a
was a determining factor in the actual benefit of the support. The support most
beneficial to those in need was support from individuals or groups who had the
15


most knowledge at an interpersonal level about the individual in need.
Silverman (1995) added emphasis to this notion of the importance of the family
and friend support system and re-iterated the conclusions found in her 1986
work: The bereaved need friends to help with the concrete tasks of living.. .as
they try to establish a lifestyle appropriate to their new situation (p. 247).
In 1994, Barnes & Duck explained the importance of the friends and
family support system:
When people experience a crisis, however infrequently, however
serious or acute, however soluble it ultimately turns out to be, they
initially turn to those people with whom they have continuous
relationships, rather than to people who are acknowledged experts in
solving crises of the type that they are experiencing, (p. 175)
In the 1989 study initiated by Sanders, when asked what was the greatest help
in getting through bereavement, [the bereaved] overwhelmingly answered
friends and family. Relationships were valued the most (p. 231).
This situation in which the bereaved report that their most beneficial
support is derived from their friends and family presents a conflicting
interactive problem. Parkes (1972) noted that friends often find themselves at
a loss when interacting with the bereaved because there is a recognition that
neither party can give the other what he [sic] wants. The helper cannot bring
back the person who is dead and the bereaved person cannot gratify the helper
by seeming helped. (p. 163). In addition, Goffman (1971) noted that the
16


greater the change in the self of a person, the further he [sic] can be physically
from those whom he [sic] yet defines as close enough for the telling (p. 69).
In the 1986 study done by Lehman, Ellard, & Wortman, results disclosed that
the majority of the unhelpful responses were received from family members
and close friends [in comparison to] more casual acquaintances (p. 443).
Lehman et al., suggested the reasons why family and close friends may offer
unhelpful responses might possibly be due to their greater anxiety in
attempting to relieve the bereaved persons distress [because] their own lives
are particularly likely to be disrupted by the victims continued dysfunction and
distress (p. 443).
Complicating the need for interpersonal support at the friend and family
level, there is evidence to suggest that the traditional interpersonal system of
bereavement support in the American culture is slowly eroding away (Keith,
1981). Communities are experiencing a decrease in the development of
interpersonal relationships within neighborhoods because of the diversity of
employment and schedules, while families and friends find themselves spread
out over the entire globe due to employment transfers and increased mobility.
Therefore, the interpersonal social support system, consisting of a close family
unit (psychologically and geographically) [and] a caring community [that
provides] a social fabric of reinforcement (Keith, p. 203), is not oftly reported
17


to be the most depended upon support system, it is also the system that is
quietly dying within our society.
Casual Acquaintance Support. In the extended support system of
casual acquaintances, the bereaved find that activities have continued on as
usual and without them. This can provide the comfort of social stability while
at the same time accentuate the depth of change the bereaved person has
experienced. Goffman (1971) described the ritual of ratification in extended
networks as a possible key factor of support in that system. In this support
ritual, there exists a necessity to:
Express that the performer is alive to the situation of the one who has
sustained change, that he [sic] will continue his [sic] relationship to him
[sic], that support will be maintained, that in fact things are what they
were in spite of the acknowledged change, (p. 67)
This ritual in the context of casual acquaintances can provide the bereaved with
a sense of stability in the external world at a time when their internal world has
been shattered and their circle of geographically close friends and family has
decreased in size.
In essence then, the bereaved enter into a marginal social position
where they experience uneasiness in their interactions within their decreasing
familiar social system, have not yet adjusted to a new system in which they can
comfortably function, and are regularly confronted with the seeming stability of
the extended world. This marginality is forced upon the bereaved and their
18


social system and thereby a compounded sense of loss is created for all of
those whose life is touched by the bereaved individual. Initially, the
professional support system may help the bereaved sort out their personal
emotional complexity, but the professional system can do little to facilitate a
new social position for the bereaved within their pre-existing network of
friends, family, and acquaintances.
In 1994, Zimmermann & Applegate elucidated that acquiring social
support in any one of the three systems is more than just having access to that
support system.
Social support is an interactional accomplishment. The conditions
calling for support efforts... are studied in a way that gives prominence
to communication as the process that defines support and the world in
which support occurs, (p. 52)
Therefore, the availability or access to support systems within the American
culture is not enough to facilitate support in the process of social re-
organization for the bereaved and non-bereaved; interaction is a critical
component. At this point, interpersonal communication becomes the focal
point of the re-socialization process for the bereaved.
Communication Aspects of Bereavement
In the American culture, interlaced with highly efficient technological
communication, individuals can interact with others around the globe and while
19


orbiting the globe. Yet in the area of bereavement, there is evidence to suggest
that individuals experience tremendous difficulty communicating their feelings,
even to their closest friends (Borden & Stone, 1972). At the intrapersonal
level, the bereaved may feel so overwhelmed by the complexity of grief that
they may hardly understand [their] own behavior, let alone be able to translate
it and justify it to [others] (Copp, 1994, p. 225). As a result, in the expression
of grief, neither the bereaved nor those they come in contact with are
comfortable in initiating communication.
Initiation Difficulties
Vail (1982) surmised that we are unsure of what to say and afraid we
will say the wrong thing (p. 72). Parkes (1972) added that communication
becomes difficult because conversation about trivialities is irrelevant at such
time... .This is not a situation in which there is a proper thing to say; trite
formulae serve only to widen the gap between bereaved and non-bereaved
(P 163).
In 1967, Sudnow observed the following:
[In] American society particularly, where bereaved persons do not wear
visible insignia of their grief, it is a continually problematic matter both
for them and others as to the proper relevance of their own status as an
attendable matter in conversation, (p. 137)
20


A conversational paradox for both the bereaved and non-bereaved develops.
First of all, ultimately the bereaved seek to re-enter into everyday
conversational talk.
The sheer fact of conducting a conversation in situations where talk
might appear a strange activity.. .locates the event, despite its tragic
character, as a nonetheless handleable matter. In doing talk persons
affirm their sense of the essential stability of their conditions... (p. 149)
Barnes & Duck (1994) noted everyday talk functions as a relationship
perpetuation or maintenance strategy.. .which in turn serves to sustain a
persons sense of being supported (p. 185). Yet Sudnow observed that with
each new encounter, the bereaved are obliged to appear sufficiently grievous
as to warrant.. .offers of condolences (p. 138) and everyday talk is disrupted
by sympathy exchanges.
At the same time Sudnow (1967) noted the bereaved also need to
express their emotions for which there is no everyday conversational
convention to guide them. In expressing their loss, the interpretation of
soliciting sympathy may put the recipient.. .in the position of having to
produce sympathy on the spot.. .and.. .may deprive gestures of sympathy of
their central powers, the sense, at least, that they are genuinely offered (p.
163). In addition to not wanting to solicit sympathy, the bereaved are often
reluctant to initiate communication that entails asking for help from others in
an effort to decrease any further personal burden upon others (Kalish, 1985, p.
21


275). This unwillingness to initiate conversation leads the bereaved to a
strong dependency on anyone who will stimulate the bereaved to activity and
serve as the initiating agent (Wilcox & Sutton, 1981, p. 150).
For the non-bereaved, initiating conversation directly addressing the
loss may bring about an unpredictable emotional reaction and overwhelming
emotional response by the bereaved that the non-bereaved find difficult to
handle. Borden & Stone (1972) observed:
We have had, in our culture, a general attitude toward all of our
emotions that seemed to regard them as dangerous potentials which
each person carried within him [sic] and which might go off without
warning or reason (p. 128).
To add complexity, Owens (1986) reported that each individual has to deal
with [their own] strong emotions being experienced and in addition has to
handle the other persons strong emotions (p. 383). If the non-bereaved side-
steps the topic of loss and maintains everyday talk, the bereaved may perceive
the non-bereaved as an uncaring individual because of the non-validation of the
bereaved individuals status.
Therefore, both the bereaved and non-bereaved find themselves
conversationally disabled within the conventional constructs of interpersonal
communication. To seek a model from which to construct some type of
conversational norm in situations of bereavement Strickland & DeSpelder
(1995) suggested that entertainment programs only add to the confusion
22


about how individuals engage in conversations about death. Strickland &
DeSpelder submitted that for the most part, death is viewed in the media as an
accidental [and/or] violent external event [death happens to other people and
their loved ones] and audiences subsequently view the incomplete picture of
what death means in the lives of human beings (p. 41).
The accomplishment of communication between the bereaved and non-
bereaved is an essential component for the re-socialization process to be
achieved. Yet at the conventional method of daily social conversation, wherein
conversational familiarity exists, communication uncertainty is consistently
encountered. Balber (1995) suggested that the root of the conversation
problem lies in the fact that there is a need to rediscover how to talk about
ones deepest, unspoken feelings (p. 71). Sudnow (1967) offered this insight:
The opportunity to express grief is an opportunity for the expression of
intimacy (p. 163). To talk about our emotions involves intimate
communication which necessitates constructing a model of communication
beyond the scope of conventional daily interaction models. A model of
emotional intimacy communication would allow for the explaining oneself to
others [and would be] negotiated through social interaction and
communication (Weber, Harvey, & Orbuch, 1992, p. 261). This notion of
23


negotiating ones self through social interaction via communication has been
gaining attention in the field of communication over the last several years.
Narration as a Bereavement Communication Model
In 1989, Tannen identified the above mentioned type of communication
construction as storytelling She defined storytelling [as] a means by which
humans organize and understand the world... [and it] is a supremely social act
(p. 103, 133). In applying storytelling as a model of social bereavement
communication, the opportunity for storytelling allows individuals to be
emotionally expressive and enhances their ability to construct a meaning about
their emotions. Storytelling then, can be viewed as a conversational model for
self-disclosure/intimacy involving emotional expression.
Attig (1995) added another important aspect to storytelling: people
telling their own stories [are] transformed by that act into active interpreters of
their lives (p. 9). In addition, Hargie (1986) stated the type of self-disclosure
to others will even affect the degree of his [sic] own self-knowledge and
awareness (p. 234). In an account of their personal narrative, Bochner & Ellis
(1992) explained: the reflexivity of performing a personal narrative [a.k.a.
storytelling] draws attention to the ways in which communication is used to
reveal ourselves to ourselves (p. 171). Therefore, storytelling can facilitate
24


personal introspection for the bereaved and thereby help in defining their newly
evolving sense of self.
Weber et al. (1992), described storytelling as an account. They
defined accounts as the matrix of our identity concepts... [and] are,
essentially, about other people in individuals lives and experiences [and] are
refined and negotiated through social interaction and communication (p. 262).
Cochran & Claspell (1987) added that the constructed story serves to achieve a
meaning or purpose of the experience in the life of the bereaved. In this sense,
both the bereaved and non-bereaved can have a specific storytelling
communication purpose, other than the discomforting experience of sorrowful
expression.
Mandelbaums 1989 research proposed a unique dimension to account
making as an interpersonal communication technique; account making involves
more than the one sided direction of the story teller.
Not only is the recipient integrally involved in working out with the
teller what the storytelling is about; the recipient is also the tellers
partner in constituting what it is that the telling does for instance,
whether it praises or blames, complains or celebrates, (p. 114)
Accordingly, Attig (1995) surmised it is a challenging mode of
communication that exposes [both] the participants to considerable risk,
especially the risk of personal transformation through the process (p. 13).
Additionally, Borden & Stone (1976) pointed to the developmental concept of
25


meaning in storytelling: it is only if we become involved in the experiencing of
the event (and this necessitates some commitment to its outcome) that the
event becomes meaningful (p. 74).
In conclusion, Harvey, Weber, & Orbuch (1990) suggested the role of
accounts in grief experience may have two tasks: a personal agenda of grief
and coping; and a social program focused on sharing stories with others (p.
104). As a result of these two tasks, the potential of re-constructed social
interactions unfolds. This two-fold purpose and subsequent result of account
making may be the key in facilitating communication necessary for the re-
socialization process of the bereaved to be accomplished.
26


CHAPTER 3
RESEARCH METHOD
For the purpose of this research, an ethnographic methodology will be
implemented. Specifically, a model termed the ethnography of
communication by Hymes ini972 (cited in Saville-Troike, 1982), provides the
focus of this researchers methodological intent. Saville-Troike described the
ethnography of communication:
The focus of the ethnography of communication is the speech
community, the way communication within it is patterned and
organized as systems of communicative events, and the ways in which
these interact with all other systems of culture. A primary aim of this
approach is to guide the collection and analysis of descriptive data
about the ways in which social meaning is conveyed...
Among the basic products of this approach are ethnographic
descriptions of ways in which speech and other channels of
communication are used in diverse communities.... (p. 3)
Research Design
Therefore, the first step in the methodology of ethnographic
communication is the identification of the speech community that will be
studied. However, Saville-Troike emphasizes that individuals.. .may
participate in a number of discrete or overlapping speech communities.. .which
one or ones a person orients himself or herself to at any given moment... is part
of the strategy of communication (p. 21). With this in mind, the speech
27


community identified for the purpose of this research is the community of
individuals who have experienced the death of a loved one and are
subsequently defined by their status as bereaved individuals per the operational
definition stated in Chapter One.
Saville-Troike suggests that the second step in communication
ethnography is the identification of discrete units of some kind, with
communicative activities that have recognizable boundaries (p. 28). She
suggests that the communicative event is the basic unit for descriptive
purposes and can be defined as having:
A unified set of components throughout, beginning with the same
general purpose of communication, the same general topic, and
involving the same participants, generally using the same language
variety, maintaining the same tone or key and the same rules for
interaction, in the same setting. An event terminates whenever there is
a change in the major participants, their role-relationships, or the focus
of attention, (p. 29)
The communication event examined in this research is the event of initiating
communication about the death of a loved one between the bereaved individual
and their family, friends or co-workers.
The third step in communication ethnography is determining the
procedure for data collection. Saville-Troike suggests that the most common
method of collecting ethnographic data in any domain of culture is participant-
observation (p. 121). Several problems have been identified with
28


ethnographers considered to be an outsider of the community they are
observing and Saville-Troike warns:
The investigator, to be able to enter into various speech events
relatively unobtrusively as a participant-observer, and one with whom
other participants can feel comfortable, should share as closely as
possible the same linguistic background and competence as the
members of the community under observation, (p. 122)
Saville-Troike reported that one advantage of ethnographers working within
their own culture (p. 110) is that through the combination of observation and
self-knowledge, the ethnographer can plumb the depths and explore the subtle
interconnections of meaning in ways that the outsider could attain only with
great difficulty, if at all (p. 111). Due to the recently bereaved status of this
researcher, which allows for shared knowledge about the communication event
and therefore an insider status, the participant-observation method of data
collection can be highly effective and will therefore be implemented. Within
this method of participant-observation inside the ethnographers own culture,
the technique of interviewing will be implemented.
Saville-Troike stressed the importance of being open to new meanings
and unforeseen patterns of behavior in the technique of interviewing and
explained it is probably best to impose as little structure as possible on an
interview, and to insert questions at natural points in the flow rather than
having a rigid schedule of questions to follow (p. 125). Therefore, an initial
29


list of questions for the interviews in this study can be found in Appendix B,
but they will only be used as a guideline during the interviews.
Saville-Troike contends that the reliability of information [gained from
interviewing] can best be judged by asking similar questions of several people
in the community and comparing their answers... (p. 129). This study will
initiate the communication event of bereavement conversation with eight
bereaved individuals and each individual will be asked similar questions. Their
answers will then be compared.
The final step in ethnography of communication is the analysis of the
communication event. Saville-Troike maintains that:
The ultimate criterion for descriptive adequacy is whether someone not
acquainted with the speech community might understand how to
communicate appropriately in a particular situation; beyond that we
wish to know why those behaviors are more appropriate than
alternative possibilities, (p. 108)
The results of this research expect to identify and describe current categories
of communication behavior within the bereaved community, explore variables
that impact those categories and posit communication techniques that may be
more appropriate in communication events with the bereaved.
In addition to the methodology of ethnography of communication, the
method of experimental parallax (J. A. Winterton, personal communication,
February 23, 1996) will be employed. Experimental parallax provides the
30


triangulation necessary for trustworthiness of the method. Experimental
parallax requires the presence of two interviewers in order to provide ,
collaboration and verification about the findings and results of the study.
When two independent researchers, by evidencing the same data, can reach a
single conclusion, credibility of the conclusions can be enhanced. For the
purpose of this study, two researchers will be present at each interview, and
immediately following the interview they will analyze the information gathered
for the specific purpose of enhancing the credibility of any conclusions.
Participant Demographics
The participants in this research were chosen because of their
experience as bereaved individuals. Their bereavement experience has been
within the last 12 years, and not less than 3 months ago. The group consists of
6 females and 2 males, all between 30-65 years old and of Caucasian descent.
The relationship between 7 participants and the interviewers falls within the
operational definition of extended ffiends/co-workers. The remaining
participant has a direct relationship with the interviewers. The relationship of
individual participants and their deceased loved one include parent, spouse,
sibling, and adult-child of the deceased. The educational background of the
participants ranges from high school education to current enrollment in a
31


University graduate program. One participant resides outside of the state of
Colorado. All but one of the deceased were males.
Procedure
Five participants were approached about their possible participation in
this study because of the interviewers personal knowledge of their
bereavement status. Upon overhearing conversation about this research, 3
individuals volunteered to participate. Until that moment, this researcher had
no knowledge of their bereavement status, yet had occasion to interact with
them on a regular basis. Each participant was given an Informed Consent
Form (Appendix A) and a list of possible questions (Appendix B) to review
before scheduling an interview date. They were instructed to contact this
researcher if they still wanted to participate in the study, and a time and place
would then be scheduled. Each participant was asked to select the sight for the
interview in order to meet with their personal needs and comfort during the
interview process which is expected to extend between 2-3 hours. One male
and one female will be interviewed as a couple because of their joint
bereavement over the death of their baby. Each interview will be recorded and
the subsequent discussion between the interviewers will be recorded on the
same tape following each interview. The substance of the interviews and
32


ensuing discussion will be transcribed and when necessary actual dialogue will
be transcribed to provide clarity of the message.
Two interviews will be recorded without the presence of any
interviewers. One participant has a direct relationship with the interviewer,
lives outside the state of Colorado, and volunteered to participate in this way.
The other participant preferred to respond to the questions in private. Both
will record their responses to the same questions provided to all participants,
and will only state their own thoughts in answering the questions. The tapes of
their responses will be delivered to this researcher and these participants have
been asked to contact this researcher if they have any questions concerning
their participation. The interviewers will discuss their responses on their
respective tapes and this discussion will be recorded on a separate tape
identified as such. The same type of transcription procedure will be
implemented as previously discussed.
A second interviewer was chosen based on his prior familiarity with the
participants and his credibility concerning communication knowledge and
research. This researcher felt that the presence of a complete stranger during
the interview would add undue stress to the participants considering the
intimate emotionality of the topic to be discussed; therefore prior familiarity
with the participants was a necessity. This researcher also sought a competent
33


individual with similar education in matters of research and communication. In
meeting the previously stated criteria, the second interviewer was chosen. Don
Werner is a graduate student in the Department of Communication at the
University of Colorado, Denver, with considerable research background. He is
also considered a ffiend/co-worker by all the participants, and has a marital
relationship with this researcher.
34


CHAPTER 4
THE RESULTS
The results of the interviews initiated for the purpose of this research
will be discussed in reference to the three goals of this research: 1) A
description of currently experienced communication behavior associated with
bereavement; 2) Identification of important variables impacting bereavement
communication; and 3) A positing of specific interpersonal communication
techniques that may facilitate the communication about grief and loss for both
the bereaved and non-bereaved.
A brief summary and partial transcription of each interview can be
found in Appendix C. The transcriptions, as well as references to actual
dialogue discussed in this section, are identified by the initials of the
participants and the tape count reference number that identifies the location of
the dialogue on the audio recording, e.g. MSK(OOO). The tape count numbers
run consecutively from side to side and tape to tape; therefore no reference will
be made as to tape side or tape number. For easy reference, the transcriptions
in Appendix C are presented in alphabetical order according to first initial.
35


Communication Behavior
Communication behavior for the bereaved participants of this project
fell into three distinct categories that were labeled by this researcher as:
Private Interactions, Impersonal Interactions, and Interpersonal Interactions.
These categories in no way suggest stages of communication that can be
ordered by chronological, developmental, or preferment experience. Rather,
these categories exist simultaneously, and the participants move freely between
the categories beginning from their initial experience of grief through their
present state of awareness. The categories of communication behavior are
both independent and interdependent; that is they are experienced
independently of each other, yet because each category is available at any given
\
moment of communication, the category chosen for communication was
determined as a result of prior experiences within the other categories of
communication behavior. Therefore, the choice of which category of
communication would be implemented at a given time was controlled by the
bereaved, regardless of the initiating agent or style of initiation. There is
evidence that within each category, the bereaved have experienced being both
the initiator and the recipient of initiation. However, the experience of being
the recipient of initiation was the most desired choice by each of the eight
participants.
36


Private Interaction
Within this category of communication behavior, the bereaved sought
solitude with their emotions. However, both of the male participants expressed
difficulty with expressing any emotion privately or publicly (JT/ST (140); KLS
(709)]. In this category, there was no desire for face-to-face contact with
other individuals. However, limited non-face-to-face contact in the form of
letters or phone calls from other individuals was an element in this category of
communication, yet very difficult for one participant [DAC (54)]. Private
Interaction communication behavior was experienced in a multitude of ways:
Listening to music [DAC (193); MRF (514)]; private visits to the cemetery
[ST (535)]; crying alone [KLS (626), MRF (717); MSK (668); RMT (281)];
watching sad movies [MSK (893)]; drugs/alcohol [KLS (670)]; and seclusion
through depression [JT (570)]. Each instance represents a private, personal
interaction with expressing the pain of emotional loss. Also, included within
this category, the bereaved accepted and appreciated outside initiation in the
form of phone calls or letters [DAC (185, 249); JLS (296); JT (373); MRF
(147); RMT (331, 415)] and RMT (506) suggested that the letters were most
helpful because they could be read and re-read time and time again. Both KLS
(1062) and RMT (380) reported that they were willing to initiate
communication in the form of letters, but only JT (451) mentioned the
37


experience of initiating phone calls was beneficial for her within this category.
The ability to initiate, and the experience of being the recipient of initiation,
was highly valued in this category by all participants and stated very succinctly
by MSK (893,1100) andRMT (281).
Impersonal Interaction
Within the category of Impersonal Interaction communication behavior,
the bereaved sought a social connection in which to express their emotions
verbally. The opportunity to say the words about the emotional pain of loss
aloud to other individuals was perceived as a necessary part of the participants
grief experience [JLS (413); KLS (327); MSK (893)]. This opportunity
involves a low risk of personal involvement with the audience because the
bereaved were not concerned about the impact of their words upon others as
much as they were about the need for an avenue in which to verbally express
themselves. The bereaved neither sought nor anticipated feedback from their
audience, only an open forum for narration. Again, this was manifested
differently for each individual: Personal counseling [MSK (983); JT (570)];
AA meetings [KLS (1136, 1217)]; church group involvement [DAC (336);
JT/ST (598); RMT (469)]; victim advocate programs [JT (239)]; classroom
educational settings [JT/ST (521); MSK (782)]; and even in the acceptance of
38


the invitation for this interview [JLS, JT/ST, KLS, MRF, & MSK], This
category involves a face-to-face interaction but necessitates a non-judgmental
audience, an open and safe environment, and an understanding that the
experience being expressed is not negotiable via dialogue.
In this respect, the narrative resulting from self expression does not
want or require reciprocal involvement during the initial expression. The
bereaved initiated contact with groups or individuals knowing that those
groups and individuals were providing an open forum for narration. None of
the bereaved reported initiating communication by asking if they could have an
open forum in which to participate in self expression. Therefore, the groups or
individuals initiated the formal overarching invitation to participate in open
forums, it was up to the bereaved to initiate personal contact and express their
willingness to participate in already developed forums. All participants were
aware to some degree of open forum structured situations provided by
professional support systems, however not all participants have initiated
personal contact with any one of the professional systems [JLS, MRF, &
RMT]. Yet, they each initiated their willingness and agreed to participate in
the open forum structure of this research project and have participated in less
structured, non-professional, open forum discussions with some of their friends
and/or co-workers.
39


Interpersonal Interaction
Within the Interpersonal Interaction category of communication
behavior, the bereaved sought a personal re-connection in expressing their
emotions. This face-to-face interaction includes the need for reciprocal
involvement. This category brings with it increased risk for both the bereaved
and their participant. In this category, the bereaved and their participant
allow for the opportunity of intimate relationship development, via reciprocal
disclosure, which puts both of them at risk to become involved in anothers
emotional pain and also the potential loss of another close relationship. The
narrative of emotional loss remains non-negotiable, however there is a
willingness to share experiences rather than just a one-sided expression of
them.
Of the three categories, this appears be the least commonly experienced
or acknowledged category. Only two of the participants addressed this
category directly as a method of communication [JLS (524); RMT (405)].
Others [DAC (330); KLS (822)] expressed a desire to be the recipient of an
outside initiation to have interpersonal communication, but expressed
discomfort with being the initiator. Still, some participants solicited reciprocal
disclosure within the interview process [DAC (119, 330); JLS (367)]. A
possible explanation about why this category of bereavement communication is
40


the least experienced or the least acknowledged category may be that the lack
of prior personal knowledge concerning another individuals experience of loss
impedes initiation into this category of communication for both parties. A
compounding barrier to this communication category is that both parties must,
at the same time, be willing to participate within the Interpersonal Interaction
category. In the other two categories, bereaved individuals make personal
decisions, not social decisions, about which category to communicate within.
Variables Influencing Bereavement Communication
Four main variables that have the potential to influence bereavement
communication have been identified: 1) Type of death of the loved one; 2)
Length of time since the death; 3) Type of relationship with the deceased; and
4) Relationship of the individuals involved in the bereavement communication.
These variables are in no way representative of the scope of possible variables,
they represent only the most prominent variables that surfaced within the scope
of this study.
Type of Death
The ages of the deceased in this study ranged from 6 months old to 83
years old. In all but one case, the bereaved indicated that they did not expect
41


death to be the probable outcome of the situation. Even in the cases of
terminal illness [KLS (63, 83); MRF (326)], and the elderly [MSK(344); RMT
(145)], medical technology intervention suggested an always present potential
for recovery. Therefore, the type of death in relation to the expectation of
death, was not seen as a key factor in impacting bereavement communication;
only one of the participants expected that their loved one would die. However,
the type of death in relation to acceptable cultural norms was a factor.
KLS experienced the social stigma of having a loved one die from
complications stemming from AIDS in 1985, when the fear of alternate
lifestyles and HIV contamination was greater than the compassion for loss.
KLSs ability to communicate openly with family and friends about his
brothers death was directly impacted by the stigma of the disease [KLS (447,
544, 692)]. KLS (1217) sought Impersonal Interaction through the AA
program and was finally able to verbalize his emotional pain resulting from his
brothers death after more than a year of Private Interaction. Eleven years
later, he remains cautious about the cause of his brothers death evidenced by
his communication in his interview [KLS (8, 108)].
JT & ST experienced guilt about their capabilities of parenting due to
the type of death of their infant son (140). In 1988, SIDS was a mystery to the
medical professionals and it continues to remain a mystery as of this writing.
42


The required investigation on the premise of potential child abuse as a cause of
their sons unexpected death made bereavement communication socially
difficult for JT & ST (323). JT & ST sought Impersonal Interaction through
the SIDS foundation (165, 451) and Victim Advocate groups (239) in order to
verbalize their grief experience.
For these three participants specifically, the Impersonal Interaction
category of communication became their primary focus of communication
because it allowed for a safe, non-judgmental forum to express their losses.
For all three individuals, their initiation in contacting structured groups was
critical for their verbal release of emotional experience. The other five
participants in this study have been less inclined to initiate contact with these
types of structured groups. Partly because they do not experience any social
stigma attached to the type of death their loved one experienced, and
consequently have more latitude when discussing the events of their loved
ones death in social situations.
Length of Time Since Death
In this study, the length of time since the death of a loved one ranges
from 6 months to 11 years. The length of time had no influence on the ability
to control the non-verbal facial expression of emotional loss [JLS (220)]. All
43


participants became teary eyed during parts of the interview and some asked
for a pause in the tape [KLS (157)]. There was no observed difference in
the current depth of pain, experienced or expressed, between those with longer
time periods of adjustment and the more recently bereaved. This observation
alone suggests that these emotions of loss are not lessened over time, but
rather are as acute today as they were at the initial time [JLS (220)]. Skills to
cope with their emotional pain may have increased over time, yet the emotional
pain is just as real today as any other time [JLS (413)].
The only observed influence of length of time on communication
behavior is the amount of experience the bereaved have had in each of the
three categories of bereavement communication. The individuals KLS, JT, &
ST have had the greatest amount of time since their loss and have experienced
more depth in each of the three bereavement communication categories. Even
so, all three categories are still being experienced by those individuals.
Individuals with the shortest amount of time since their loss, MRF &
RMT, have experienced all three categories of communication behavior, but
only have a very limited experience with the Impersonal and Interpersonal
Interaction categories. This may suggest that the initial experience of
bereavement is confined to the Private Interaction category of communication
44


behavior, and any further communication is dependent upon initiation, either by
the bereaved or non-bereaved, into the other categories.
Type of Relationship
The type of relationship the bereaved had with the deceased as far as
biological relatedness had little influence on the participants communication
process. The participants individual losses extended beyond the boundaries of
any biological relationship labels. In other words, what these participants
experienced was not the loss of a brother, father, mother, husband or
son within the context of identified relationship roles; what they did
experience was the loss of a shared intimate relationship with another human
being. What proved to be an important type of relationship variable
impacting communication behavior was the length of time the relationship
existed in the life of the bereaved and the geographical distance between the
bereaved and the deceased.
Length of Time of Relationship. The influence of the relationships
length of time on bereavement communication was especially evident in JT &
STs interview. JT & ST had very little they could talk about in reference to
the events of their sons life. Within their sons short lifetime of only 6 months,
there was very little shared life experience they could converse about in
45


comparison to the events of the past 7 years of experiencing loss. This
noticeable difference accentuated the depth of loss in their inability to talk
about their shared life experiences with their son.
On the other hand, the life long relationship experiences, ranging from
thirty to over forty years, accentuated the depth of loss in the probability that
relationships of that longevity will never again be experienced in the span of a
single lifetime. The death also represented a loss of a historical account of life
that quite literally took the majority of a lifetime to develop [MSK; RMT],
The Geographic Distance. The consequence of geographic location
was most clearly evidenced in the loss of a spouse experienced by RMT and
the loss of a son experienced by JT & ST. Because RMT shared the exact
same geographic location with her spouse, she also lost the main source of her
daily communication experience. She expressed this now profoundly
noticeable aspect of her lost relationship and the struggle to find that re-
connection in daily dialogue [RMT (213)]. She also expressed a desire to not
think about the week prior to death wherein she was close by her husband each
day, awaiting his recovery [RMT (534)]. JT & ST also shared the same
geographic location with their son, and addressed the difficulty of their sons
absence and the difficulty surrounding decisions about funeral arrangements
and burial [JT/ST (239)]. Those participants with the greatest geographical
46


distance were not present at the time of death nor were they involved in the
preparations of the funeral rituals. Their communication does not reflect the
emotional aspect of that experience and maintains itself in the realm of shared
life experiences [KLS & MSK],
The geographic distance also determined the prominent circle of social
interaction that was available for the bereaved. When the funeral rituals were
conducted away from the hometown of the bereaved [KLS (8); MSK (568)],
the bereaved returned home and had no extended family or friends that had
shared the funeral ritual with them, outside of any immediate family members
who may have traveled with them. These individuals experienced more initial
Private Interaction, yet fewer phone calls and letters, than the other bereaved
who had friends and family that were geographically close and shared in the
funeral rituals. In the situations of geographic similarities, the funeral rituals
became a shared experience, a reason for contact, and the circle of individuals
available for communication was larger, but not necessarily desirable.
Relationships of Individuals Involved
In Bereavement Communication
Of all the variables discussed to this point, the relationship between the
individuals involved in bereavement communication appears to have the most
influence on the communication technique employed and whether or not any
47


communication takes place at all. Four categories of relationships became
evident: 1) Individuals within the family of origin; 2) Spouse/immediate family;
3) Friends/acquaintances; and 4) Strangers.
Family of Origin. When all but two of the participants spoke about
communicating with family members in their families of origin, they reported
that communication attempts were difficult or non-existent [JLS (319); JT/ST
(451); KLS (770); MRF (139); MSK (600)]. Speculation about this
communication difficulty included poor prior communication skills that become
enhanced with emotional stress [KLS (337, 615)], the desire to maintain
Private Interaction even when face-to-face interaction in making family
decisions was necessary [KLS (298); MSK (568)], the unwillingness to
negotiate private emotions through dialogue constructing the family story
about the death event [KLS (1041, 1062); MRF (104)], or that all the family
members were in crisis together and unable to help each other [JT/ST (239);
KLS (430)]. One explanation offered by one of the participants that reported
no family difficulty in communication [RMT] was that the entire family had
worked together in a family owned and operated business for over twenty
years and had quite possibly developed friendship/business relationships that
complemented their biological relationships and allowed for multiple constructs
of communication techniques for interaction.
48


Spouse/Immediate Family Communication with immediate family
members, including spouse and children, was only briefly discussed by several
participants [DAC (122); JLS (209, 549, 833); KLS (439); MRF (60, 464);
MSK (668, 945)]. However, the interview with JT & ST provided tremendous
insight into the actual communication process between spouses. They
communicated freely within the Interpersonal Interaction categoiy of
communication, respecting each others individual experiences and also
validating their joint experience. What became apparent in their interaction
was that new information surfaced for each of them. This suggests that their
accounts of the experience do not necessarily reach a stage of completion, but
rather new information arises with each new interaction which leads to the
understanding that the process of communication bereavement continues to
grow and change as the individuals involved grow and change [JT/ST (570)].
Friends/Acquaintances. Communication with friends was reported to
be enhanced when the friends were willing to let the bereaved just talk within
the Impersonal Interaction category of communication. However, friends who
were not willing to participate in bereavement communication within this
category have been distanced from the recognized circle of close friends
[JT/ST (323, 373); KLS (808); MRF (578)]. At the same time, new friends
that were previously considered acquaintances have entered the circle of close
49


friends precisely because of their participation in this category of
communication [JLS (301); MRF(147); MSK (731)]. Participants also
expressed comfort in the Interpersonal Interaction category with
friends/acquaintances who have also experienced the death of a loved one.
This was evidenced in the request for reciprocal disclosure during these
interviews by participants [DAC; JLS] and within days following the interviews
[JT/ST; MRF; RMT],
Strangers. In respect to communicating with strangers, several
participants expressed distress over having to communicate with strangers, or
just the possibility of a stranger as a second interviewer [DAC (214); JLS;
MRF; & MSK]. There was evidence that as the interviews progressed, the
participants were sharing intimate information not only about themselves, but
also their families of origin. In a one-on-one situation, such intimate disclosure
with a stranger would be extremely uncomfortable and probably would not
happen. Therefore, the relationship of the individuals involved in the
communication had significant impact concerning the amount of emotional and
factual disclosure, and the category of communication that was employed by
the bereaved. The most comfortable and varied communication appeared to
occur at the friendship level of relationship for the participants in this study.
50


The impact of these variables on the categories of bereavement
communication behavior is summarized in Table 4.1 on the following page.
The variable that appears to have the most impact on communication behavior
is the type of relationship of the individuals involved in the bereavement
communication event. Across the communication behavior categories,
friends/co-workers are utilized in communication more than any other group
and regardless of the impact of any other variable. This finding accentuates the
importance of friends and co-workers in facilitating the re-socialization of the
bereaved. From this point, it is critical to explore how communication can be
initiated between these two groups and enhance their communication abilities.
The Positing of Specific Communication Techniques
The identification of two specific communication techniques that
facilitate the initiation of communication about grief and loss for both the
bereaved and non-bereaved surfaced with the serendipitous discovery of two
enduring dimensions within bereavement communication. Across all
interviews, two enduring dimensions became prominent: 1) The overwhelming
desire for outside initiation of communication; and 2) The need for an
understanding that the experience communicated by the bereaved is a non-
negotiable topic. These two dimensions remained stable across the variables
51


Table 4.1 Table of Categories and Impacting Variables
Private Interaction ImDersonal Interaction Interpersonal Interaction
Characteristics Non-face-to-face Private & Individualistic Face-to-face with no reciprocal disclosure. Usually formally structured. Bereaved will not initiate. Face-to-face with solicited reciprocal disclosure at discretion of bereaved. Bereaved will not initiate this category.
TvDe of Death Variable Not a major reported influence. Bereaved tend to associate only with those with like circumstances or within highly structured forums for self-disclosure. Initial reciprocal disclosure with others of similar experience. Time is a factor in initiating disclosure from others w/different experience.
Length of Time Since Death Variable Influences the amount of time spent in private, but not specific method used. Bereaved use this forum to develop their initial account of their experience. Also used when attempts to solicit reciprocal disclosure fail to produce desired results. Influences the amount of reciprocal disclosure solicited. Bereaved need time to develop own story first before engaging others to tell their stories.


Table 4.1. (Cont.) Table of Categories and Impacting Variables
Ul
U>
Private Interaction Impersonal Interaction
Type of Time/Distance: Time: Impacted the type
Relationship Not a major influence. of information disclosed.
w/Deceased Expression of loss Short term relationships
Variable surpasses relationship evidenced more discussion
categories. on after death related issues than life time events. Distance: Greater geographical distances provided less information about funeral preparations and subsequent cemetery visits.
Relationships Family of Origin: Family of Origin:
of Individuals Unlikely to admit Unlikely to be
Involved in event involvement in this utilized.
of Bereavement category.
Communication Immediate Family'. Immediate Family:
Variable. Unlikely to admit May sometimes
involvement in this category. be utilized.
Friends/Co-workers: Friends/Co-workers:
May admit involvement Most likely to be
in this category. utilized.
Strangers: Will hide Strangers: Will often
involvement. be utilized.
Interpersonal Interaction
Time: Impacted the type
of information disclosed &
solicited.
Distance: Greater distances
impacted the availability of
other individuals with whom
reciprocity was comfortable.
Family of Origin:
Unlikely to be
utilized.
Immediate Family:
Very rare if utilized
at all.
Friends/Co-workers:
Most likely to be
utilized.
Strangers: May sometimes
be utilized.


impacting communication and the three categories of bereavement
communication. Following a discussion on the two enduring dimensions of
bereavement communication, the two specific communication techniques will
be identified and their viability will be discussed in relation to the three
categories of bereavement communication.
Desire for Outside Initiation
All participants continually expressed a desire for outside initiation of
conversation about their deceased loved one, or their experience in relation to
the loss [DAC (139, 282, 350); JLS (355); MRF (578)]. ST (373) discussed
his understanding about the difficulty for others to initiate, yet emphasized how
meaningful the conversation was when outside initiation did occur. RMT
(506) re-iterated the same sentiment. MRF (147, 556) addressed the
disappointment when co-workers ceased to initiate conversation about her
experience. JLS, MRF, MSK, and JT/ST expressed their gratitude for this
researchers initiation of communication through a forum in which they could
talk about their loss.
The absence of visible signs of mourning was discussed with respect to
mourning signs as non-verbal initiating cues that signal a bereavement status
to others and could potentially facilitate initiation of conversation by outside
54


sources [KLS (1318)]. JT & ST (635) reported ordering and receiving a pin
they could wear that was made available to the parents of infants who died
from SIDS, yet they only wore it a few times. The interviewers speculated that
because the pin was representative of a type of group membership, JT & ST
were reluctant to identify their grief with a group when their grief was
actually a private personal experience. The possibility of some type of
symbolic, non-verbal, artifact that simply represented the experience of
personal loss [not one participant wanted a mourning status type of
symbol] was discussed with each participant. Each one agreed that such a
symbol may help outside sources to initiate the communication that was
desired by everyone, yet a few were cautious about the potential for interaction
with strangers. Most participants expressed a desire to attain such a symbol.
The Non-Negotiable Topic
Most of the participants expressed discomfort when others tried to give
an explanation for, or advice about the bereaveds personal experience. Above
all, their hope was that the non-bereaved would recognize that when the
bereaved take the risk to express their emotional experience, the narration is
their experience and no one else can possibly know how to account for, or
explain that experience [DAC (311); RMT (581, 628)]. Any negotiation
55


becomes unforgivable because negotiation is perceived to invalidate the
reliability of the bereaveds personal experience.
MRF (147) added that when others tend to negotiate the experience as
being closed or over and finished, the perception is that the communication
about the topic of loss is also closed and needs no further discussion. This
point that conversation can be once and for all concluded, is also non-
negotiable because, as evidenced by the new information surfacing between JT
& ST seven years after their loss, the topic of loss within conversation is never
finished for the bereaved.
This dimension of non-negotiation in communication is very difficult
for the non-bereaved because the foundation of dialogue is dependent upon
negotiation of the topic, negotiation of the meanings derived in conversation,
and negotiation of conversational closure. Yet for the bereaved, in their
expression of personal loss, negotiation becomes threatening and offensive.
Two Techniques of Communication
From the previously mentioned enduring dimensions of bereavement
communication, two techniques of interpersonal communication have been
elucidated. The first technique involves a non-verbal, artifactual representation
of loss worn by the bereaved. The second technique involves the development
56


of an open forum type of communication that allows for a non-negotiated
narrative expression by the bereaved.
Non-Verbal Artifact. An artifact representing the experience of loss
can be worn by the bereaved and serve to signal the non-bereaved of the
appropriateness of initiating conversation about the loss [RMT (370, 561)].
Such a simple non-verbal signal can achieve the bereaveds desired result of
outside initiation and at the same time relieve the stress associated with the
non-bereaved in their desire to be appropriate in bringing up the topic of loss.
The bereaved maintain control of the sharing of their private experience by
their choice in deciding where and when to wear the artifact. This symbol also
affords bereaved and non-bereaved individuals the opportunity to recognize
and acknowledge each other when they may have otherwise been naive to the
others situation of loss. Subsequently, this artifact can break down the
barriers of initiation that create discomfort for both the bereaved and non-
bereaved.
When considering the artifact within the categories of bereavement
communication employed by the bereaved, this artifact, intended to initiate
communication, achieves the requirements needed to meet each categorys
communication goal. In the category of Private Interaction, when the symbol
is not worn, the bereaved can maintain their private emotional interaction.
57


When the symbol is worn, individuals may know that they can initiate
communication about the loss with the bereaved by writing personal letters or
initiating a personal phone call if time is not available in the face-to-face
contact.
In the category of Impersonal Interaction, the artifact can serve to
initiate conversation about the loss to the extent of time limitations. The
bereaved can choose to maintain the conversation within the impersonal
category or move the communication into the interpersonal category; either
way communication has been initiated into either category and both individuals
can feel at ease with the initiating of conversation.
Forum For Narration. This interpersonal technique is not a commonly
used technique in everyday interactions. However, for interaction with the
bereaved it is potentially the most needed in social situations. The initiation of
an exploratory documentation, as was the case in this research, seemed to
facilitate the narrative forum needed by the bereaved. Very little questioning
was done by the interviewers after the topic of loss was initiated; the bereaved
systematically moved forward with the narration of their experience.
This type of narration forum can be used for individuals preferring the
Private Interaction category of communication. With very little
recommendation, individuals involved in this study that preferred a non-face-
58


to-face interaction, or were unable to meet with the interviewers due to time
constraints, recorded their narrative story on tape and subsequently reported
that it was a rewarding experience in just talking about their loss, even in
private.
For the communication category of Impersonal Interaction, this
narrative forum is precisely what is called for to achieve expression of personal
loss. The narrative forum is a non-judgmental, non-participatory forum in
which the primary concern is the bereaved individuals expressive narration.
This type of forum is most commonly found in structured settings of large
groups, however this type of forum works just as efficiently in one-on-one
situations. The main drawback is that the non-bereaved need to initiate the
narrative forum for the bereaved.
When the narration forum is initiated, the bereaved can choose to
maintain communication in the Impersonal Interaction category or move into
the Interpersonal Interaction category by asking for reciprocal disclosure; as
was the case in several of the interviews in this study. At that point, the
individual asked to give reciprocal disclosure can choose to maintain the
Impersonal Interaction, or choose to move into an Interpersonal Interaction.
In this situation however, the key point is that the offer to move into
Interpersonal Interaction must come from the bereaved individual whos
59


narration is the focus of the forum; otherwise the attempt by the non-bereaved
to disclose is not acknowledged or discussed as a part of the narration.
Therefore anyone initiating a narration forum for a bereaved individual must be
content to not self-disclose unless solicited by the bereaved. This reflects the
dimension of non-negotiation. If the narration forum does move into the
Interpersonal Interaction category, the dimension of the non-negotiable
personal topic still applies; but a sharing of personal experiences is accepted.
A summary of the communication techniques and their impact on the
categories of communication behavior can be found in Table 4.2 on the
following page. The results suggest that the combination of the two
techniques will have a significant positive impact on all three of the categories
of communication behavior; the techniques become interdependent.
Conclusion of Results
In conclusion, the result of this research identifies three major
categories of bereavement communication: Private Interaction, Impersonal
Interaction, and Interpersonal Interaction. Within these categories, individuals
implement diverse methods to achieve communication. However, the diversity
of methods is not the primary concern. The primary concern is the individuals
ability to access each of the three categories. Especially in the categories of
60


Table 4.2 Table of Categories and Posited Communication Techniques
Private Interaction Imnersonal Interaction Interpersonal Interaction
Artifactual Representation of Loss. Allows bereaved to make a private/personal statement about their loss. They can have a private interpretation of the artifacts meaning and can choose when and where to wear the artifact. Allows for initiation by others in order to open communication about the bereaveds loss. After initiation is achieved, the bereaved can then choose to move into this realm of communication.
Forum for Narration. When given the chance to conduct their interview in private, the bereaved found the experience to be a type of narrative forum. This allowed them to maintain their face-to-face privacy and at the same time allowed them a chance to express their experience and formulate their unique story. Planned and structured forums are most often professional settings where bereaved individuals can express their story without fear of judgment and no risk of relationship involvement. The forum is initiated by an organization or individual with the express intent of listening. This category is initiated by the bereaved and is developed from and within the more formally structured forum. The bereaved initiate this category from the forum, but do not initiate the forum itself. In this category, the bereaved risk personal involvement with their participant. The participant risks equal involvement.


Impersonal Interaction and Interpersonal Interaction, the ability to initiate or
receive outside initiation becomes critical.
Four variables were identified that influence the bereavement
communication that occurs within each category: type of death, length of time
since death, type of relationship with the deceased, and the relationship of
individuals involved in bereavement communication. Of these four variables,
the type of relationship between the individuals involved in bereavement
communication was found to have the most impact on all three of the
categories of bereavement communication. The bereaved were most likely to
confide in friends/co-workers about their participation in Private Interaction.
This confiding occurred in the category of either Impersonal Interaction or
Interpersonal Interaction. The families of origin and immediate families of the
bereaved were often times the last ones to know, if at all, about the bereaveds
Private Interactions.
Secondly, the type of death had an impact on the amount and type of
disclosure the participants reported within each category and also impacted the
bereaveds choice of communication category that was utilized. The social
stigma surrounding the type of death played a major role in the bereaveds
perception of sanctioned open communication about the death in any category.
Even in the case of elderly death, the social construct of expected death
62


made lengthy communication about the bereaveds loss less acceptable. A
childs unexpected death appears to be socially constructed as a more tragic
loss and communication about that loss carries a social sanction; unless the
death is clouded in mystery and the social stigma again overrides the
bereaveds ability to communicate about their loss.
Thirdly, the only impact the length of time since death had on the
communication categories was the amount of time the bereaved had spent
communicating within those categories. For the more recently bereaved the
frequency of time within the categories was more often than for others. Yet,
for those bereaved whose loss was experienced over a longer period of time,
their participation in each category appeared to be more experienced but also
occurred with less frequency over the years. However, this researcher
observed that those bereaved individuals with longer periods of time since their
loss would prefer more frequency in communication about their loss. Perhaps
the social stigma of appropriate grieving time plays a role in the frequency of
bereavement communication that is socially sanctioned.
The last variable, the type of relationship with the deceased in reference
to the longevity of the relationship and geographic distance of the relationship,
had some impact on the type of information disclosed in communication. No
impact was found in regards to which bereavement category was implemented
63


or utilized the most by the bereaved. In all cases in this study, regardless of the
longevity of the relationship or the geographic distance, the participants had a
stoiy to tell about their loss which was non-negotiable and they all reported a
desire for someone to initiate the telling of their story.
After considering the categories of bereavement communication
behavior and the variables impacting that communication, two enduring
dimensions of bereavement communication were identified: the desire for
outside initiation of communication and the non-negotiable aspect of
bereavement communication. These two dimensions crossed all category and
variable boundaries. Yet, even though these two dimensions were enduring,
no participant had any idea that any of the other participants had the same
desires about these dimensions.
From these considerations of bereavement communication behavior
categories, the variables impacting them, and the enduring dimensions of
bereavement communication, two interpersonal communication techniques that
could enhance bereavement communication across all of the considerations
were identified: a symbolic artifact of loss and a narrative forum. These two
communication techniques have the potential to facilitate bereavement
communication within the three categories, regardless of the four impacting
variables, and with parallel concern for the enduring dimensions of
64


bereavement communication. When used together, these two techniques
become interdependent. That is the initiation of communication via the artifact
allows for the probability of an open forum discussion to develop, and in
order for the open forum to be developed, some type of initiation must
occur.
In conclusion, to enhance triangulation and reliability of these findings,
a statement of participant agreement about the interpretation of their individual
interviews can be found in Appendix D. Each participant was given a copy of
this Results section, with only their referenced initials legible, and asked to
read it and determine if the interviewers gave an accurate account and
interpretation of their interviews. If they were in agreement, they were asked
to initial the participant agreement page. All participants have initialed that
page.
65


CHAPTER 5
DISCUSSION
The ethnography of communication methodology implemented in this
research provided guidelines for the necessary ingredients in qualitative
communication research in order to achieve reliable results. The three
necessary ingredients are: The identification of a specific speech community to
be observed, a description of the communication patterns within that
community, and the analysis of how this speech community interacts with other
cultural systems. The following discussion will address each of those
ingredients with regards to their implementation within this research. Then a
critique and discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of this research will be
addressed. In conclusion, the implications for future research will be posited.
The Speech Community
The speech community chosen for the purpose of this study was the
community of individuals who had lost a parent, child, sibling, or spouse
through death, and were therefore termed bereaved. In order to establish a
framework within that speech community, the length of bereavement was
arbitrarily chosen to be not more than twelve years and not less than three
66


months. The ethnic boundary of having all Caucasian participants was also
chosen to avoid any potential for outsider cultural bias and ultimately
enhance the reliability of participant-observation. No gender, economic,
educational or religious boundaries were imposed. The communication
event under observation within this speech community was the event of
initiating conversation about the bereaveds experience of loss with other
individuals classified as non-bereaved per the operational definition located in
Chapter One.
Communication Patterns
Three main communication patterns within this speech community were
identified and labeled by this researcher: Private Interaction, Impersonal
Interaction, and Interpersonal Interaction. These patterns are mutually
exclusive and exist simultaneously. Regardless of the length of time since their
loved ones death, all participants moved freely between the three patterns.
Therefore, no single pattern can be ranked as the initial or final pattern of
bereavement communication. Four variables were identified that had some
impact on the bereaveds choice of the communication pattern desired, yet no
single pattern was completely eliminated as a choice. However, the variables
did determine the methods used within the pattern of choice.
67


Private Interaction
Private Interaction involves non-face-to-face interaction in the
expression of private emotions. The participants reported using a multitude of
diverse methods to achieve this pattern of communication. In all instances, the
participants continue to maintain a private interaction with their emotions.
Private Interaction is hidden from those closest to the bereaved and this may be
partially due to the social constraints of the appropriate amount of time
allowed for the expression of emotional pain due to loss. Even so, participants
reported that they told their friends/co-workers about their experience in this
pattern of communication, but rarely, if at all, did they disclose their Private
Interaction experience with their family.
Impersonal Interaction
The Impersonal Interaction pattern involves verbal communication,
usually face-to-face, and without expectation or desire for reciprocal
disclosure. In this pattern, the bereaved simply use the interaction to express
their story about their loss. Usually this pattern takes place in a more formally
structured situation in which the bereaved maintain control of their disclosure
event. The situation is initiated by an outside source and the bereaved choose
to either accept or refuse the invitation.
68


Interpersonal Interaction
The Interpersonal Interaction pattern also involves verbal
communication, usually face-to-face, and reciprocal disclosure is solicited and
desired. This pattern appears to have no situational boundaries and may be
quite spontaneous. In this pattern, the bereaved seek to establish relationship
re-connections. There is a willingness to share experiences and not just
express their personal experience. For the bereaved, this pattern involves the
risk of re-establishing a close relationship that may lead to another experience
of emotional pain due to loss. The bereaveds partner in this communication
event also shares the same risk. This pattern is initiated by the bereaved within
the already initiated pattern of Impersonal Interaction. Yet when Interpersonal
Interaction is initiated, it takes a completely different direction than the
Impersonal Interaction pattern. Once initiated between two individuals, this
pattern is no longer dependent upon the initiation of the Impersonal Interaction
pattern.
Interaction with Other Cultural Systems
With regards to how this speech community interacts with the culture
at large, two main difficulties were identified. The first difficulty is the
reluctance of the bereaved to initiate communication about their loss with
69


those outside, and often within, their immediate circle of bereaved family. This
reluctance to initiate leaves the bereaved in an isolated social condition, and at
the same time the bereaved desire outside initiation by almost anyone.
However, a possible paradox develops when initiation does occur.
This paradox is the second communication difficulty experienced by
this speech community and the culture at large. Once communication is
initiated about the bereaveds experience of loss, the bereaved desire to only
tell their story and not negotiate that story through dialogue. In the daily
conversational norms of this American culture, communication is continually
negotiated via dialogue. However, in the speech community of the bereaved,
communication negotiation is not tolerated. Any attempt to negotiate the
bereaveds experience of their loss is perceived as confronting and invalidating.
Subsequently, communication ceases and the bereaved return to their
communication isolation. Therefore, any individual unfamiliar with the speech
community of the bereaved, can successfully communicate with individuals in
that community by recognizing that the bereaveds desire for outside initiation
is compounded by their desire for non-negotiation communication about their
personal experience or private emotions. Overcoming these two
communication difficulties not only decreases the bereaveds experience of
70


isolation, it facilitates the re-socialization process for both the bereaved and
non-bereaved.
Critique
The findings resulting from this research should not be generalized
across the entire population of bereaved individuals and their family/friends.
There will be individual differences concerning willingness to share personal
stories that are emotionally painful. These differences may be partially due to
cultural norms about expressing grief, yet whatever those differences are, they
should be respected and accepted. Ultimately, this research in no way suggests
a final decisive communication answer for all bereaved individuals or their
family/friends; it does however put forth an alternative proposition that can be
implemented if both parties are willing.
Strengths
The conclusions arising from this research are more positive and
overwhelming than initially expected. Due to the emotionally sensitive issue of
discussing the pain associated with the death of a loved one, this researcher
expected a least some resistance and/or reluctance from potential participants.
Quite the opposite occurred. Individuals were quite anxious to participate, and
71


once the word was spread that this research was being conducted, many
individuals approached this researcher and asked to be included in the
interview process. Even after all the interviews were concluded, this
researcher is still being approached by individuals who would like to discuss
the losses they have experienced in their life. The original eight participants
continue to report their pleasure with the experience and suggest other
individuals they would like to have interviewed so that those others can also
experience the pleasure associated with being able to talk openly about their
emotional pain of loss.
There was some initial concern that prolonged discussion about death
might lead to feelings of depression and a sense of morbidity. Again, quite the
opposite occurred. Participants reported feeling released from a heavy burden
along with a strong sense of emotional relief and renewal. The discussions did
not become morbid or depressing. In fact they were more like insightful
reflections about the deceased, woven with love, humor, and understanding;
incredible stories about incredible people.
The final result of this research turned out to be more than the original
intent; to discover comfortable ways for the bereaved and non-bereaved to
initiate communication about the loss. This research not only initiated that
communication, but also became a forum which facilitated a re-socialization
72


between the participants and this researcher. The relationship between each
participant and the interviewers has expanded and grown deeper.
The personal interview method implemented in this research also
allowed for the discovery of information that was beyond the scope of any
questions this researcher had prepared. The advance delivery of the questions
to the participants gave them time to reflect and organize their thoughts.
However, much of the information gained in this project was not a result of the
questions, but rather a result of additional information provided by the
participants in their narration.
In conclusion, the implications of this research suggest a method of
communication in which relationships between the bereaved and their
family/friends can be enhanced and developed rather than distanced by private
emotional experiences. The bereaved hope for the initiation of communication
due to their overwhelming desire to tell someone their story; all the non-
bereaved need to do is initiate, and then listen without judgment, to the story.
However, this method of bereavement communication requires personal
commitment and responsibility towards the relationship on the part of both the
bereaved and non-bereaved; it is not an incidental method of communication
and should not be considered without forethought concerning any ethical
consequences of initiating an emotionally intimate relationship.
73


Weaknesses
As descriptive research, this project does not offer any quantitative
empirical findings. This research does provide qualitative, general guidelines
about the communication processes of bereaved individuals. The reported
implications of those processes cannot be generalized beyond the eight
individuals that participated in this project.
The number of participants in this project was very limited due to the
length of the interviews and the depth of information. To have conducted the
interviews by using a survey would have decreased the time and ultimately the
depth of information, but would have increased the population sample. Yet the
intent of this project, to discuss the bereaveds experience of loss and
subsequent communication difficulties about that loss with others, would have
been compromised in a survey methodology.
One observed difficulty stemming from this research was for the
interviewers. Even though the participants reported unanticipated feelings of
positive emotional release and fulfillment following their interview, the
interviewers reported an initial feeling of emotional exhaustion. The
interviewers speculated that this was due in part to their attempt to maintain a
reasonable time frame for each interview; two to three hours. This time frame
allowed only enough time for the participants story and therefore the
74


interviewers did not share their personal stories within the interviews and
consequently felt emotionally overwhelmed. Secondly, the interviewers
empathy towards each participants emotionally tearful responses led to further
emotional sensations.
Implications for Future Research
It is this researchers opinion that further research in this area is
imperative. In the American society, communication about pain of emotional
loss has been severely restricted to appropriate, socially acceptable time
constraints. Yet the desire for participation in this project by so many
individuals suggests that there is a strong need and willingness to communicate
about that pain from the beginning of the experience and for many years
following the initial experience.
Initially, further research into the cultural aspects impacting the
expression of difficult emotions would be beneficial in elucidating any current
cultural barriers to grief communication. Perhaps cultural research could also
provide insight into how those barriers can be altered or removed completely.
Further, the comparison of similar studies completed in different ethnic cultures
would enhance the understanding of any potential ethnic similarities or
differences.
75


Secondly, research implementing specific bereavement communication
strategies would be beneficial in the determination of before and after
consequences of those specific strategies. For example, the development of a
symbolic artifact representing loss could be used with some bereaved
individuals to determine if the initiating aspect of the artifact is helpful in
facilitating bereavement communication in comparison to their experience prior
to receiving the artifact.
For the purpose of future research, this ethnographer proposes that the
symbolic artifact be non-gender specific in the form of a lapel pin that can be
worn at the discretion of the bereaved. It should not represent a status of
mourning, but rather a representation of loss that surpasses any religious
connotation. This researcher proposes that the symbolic representation of a
wintering tree would best meet the need of this type of artifact. The wintering
tree represents the loss of previous seasons and at the same time represents the
hope of a returning growth in spring, wherein the bereaved continue to grow
and be nourished from their loss. This researcher submits that this artifact can
be labeled a Tapestry Pin, further suggesting the intricately woven pattern of
another individuals life into the life of the bereaved.
In conclusion, the study of emotional expression by communication
scholars could only enhance the information concerning death and dying
76


already presented by the fields of psychology, anthropology, and sociology.
Communication is foundational to the human experience, and death is an
always present phenomena of the human experience; individuals should be able
to communicate about all of their life experiences. Further research in this
area of bereavement interaction can only help to elucidate and facilitate the
changes in the communication process that are needed to welcome and
sanction emotional expression.
77


APPENDIX A
Informed Consent Form
Teri Werner is a graduate student in the Communication Department at
the University of Colorado Denver. Teri is conducting research about the re-
socialization process of the bereaved via interpersonal communication
techniques for her Masters thesis. The purpose of her research is to examine
the communication process between members of a family who have
experienced the death of a loved one and their fiiends/co-workers, and to
elucidate the conditions necessary for rebuilding or re-structuring a
conversational system about the death of a loved one that is both comfortable
and productive for the bereaved and their fiiends/co-workers.
Each individual consenting to participate in this research agrees to a
tape recorded, one-on-one interview, approximately 2 hours in length, with
Teri about their experience as a bereaved family member and subsequent
experience in communicating with fiiends/co-workers about their loss. All
participants will remain anonymous along with the names of the deceased in
that only first names will be used. Due to the nature of the emotional topic,
participants may experience some discomfort in relating their experience and
78


are free to withdraw from the interview at any time with no obligation to
continue at any future time and without prejudice, ramification, or liability.
The participants will receive no remuneration for their participation in this
research.
Teri will be willing to answer any questions the participant may have in
regards to the research; including both during the research and after the
research is completed. Any questions concerning the participants rights as a
subject may be directed to: Office of Sponsored Programs, CU-Denver,
Campus Box 123, PO Box 173364, Denver, CO 80217-3364, telephone 556-
2770.
In signing this consent form, I,________________________________
agree that I have read the above information, the research has been thoroughly
explained to me, and I understand the nature of the research in which I am
consenting to participate. I also acknowledge that I will not receive any
remuneration for my participation and I am free to withdraw from this research
at any time.
SIGNED.____________________________________________________
DATE:
79


APPENDIX B
Questions For The Interview
Due to the unique circumstances and individual differences involved in this
situation, not all the questions may be used for every interview. The questions
will simply be a guide for the researcher in order to initiate the interviews.
1) Please tell me the story of your loss.
2) Outside of your immediate family, who was the greatest source of support
to you? Why?
3) How did you communicate your loss to individuals who were unaware?
4) How did individuals communicate their sympathies to you?
5) Which was the most/least helpful to you?
6) Do you discuss the death of your loved one with friends/co-workers today?
7) Describe any discomfort you currently experience in discussing the death of
your loved one to others? Why/Why not?
8) What is your sense about friends/co-workers willingness to express their
thoughts to you about your loss?
9) How would you -[or would you ]- like others to approach you about your
loss?
80


10) Outside of your immediate family, do you most often share the facts,
your emotions, both, or neither?
11) What would be your advice to others about the difficulty in communicating
to individuals experiencing grief?
12) Can you generalize that one form of communication was more helpful than
any other [e.g. letters, cards, telephone calls, house calls etc.]? Why?
13) How has the story you told me at the beginning changed over time since
the death of your loved one?
14) Do you believe, as a society, that we need some type of symbolic
representation that alerts others to our state of bereavement? Why, Why
not?
15) In reference to communication about the emotional pain of loss do you
have any final suggestions or comments?
81


APPENDIX C
The Accounts
DAC DATE RECEIVED: 3/12/96 cov7
Setting
DAC answered the interview questions on tape privately, without the
presence of any interviewers. She did her narration very early on Tuesday
morning while her family was asleep. She delivered the tape to me in person
the same day she recorded it.
Synopsis
DAC spoke about the events of the day she learned her father had
experienced a heart attack in January 1994. She continued on and discussed
times she and her dad spent together. She was very emotional and had stopped
the tape on several occasions.
82


DAC [54]-
I couldnt talk on the phone... all I could do when I started talking was
to start crying.. .my husband made all the flight reservations and
contacted others for me.. .later, even when I would try and write a
Thank you note... and would put the pen in my hand I would just
start to cry...
DAC [1191-
Dad wasnt there to see me graduate in May...and I know thats going
to be hurtful for you this May, to know that your dads not going to be
there and how proud of you he would have been.
DAC [122]-
You know its funny thinking back... sometimes I think about
afterwards...after I got home... and maybe the times I would have liked
to talk about it with my husband and his main comment is I really miss
him too.. .and maybe I discount that too much and I dont
acknowledge some of his feelings...
83


DAC[139]-
I guess if there is one thing... or anything we can do for somebody... or
that I would want done for me in this situation.. .we need people to
look.. .to try and put themselves in our place...and look at our
lives.. .the people who know us the best...and say I can do this for
you and dont ask...
***
DAC [185]-
On the other hand, I got a lot of hugs either through the mail or
physical hugs from people I least expected it.. .friends and
acquaintances.. .who had hugs and tears to share...and thats a
lot.. .that people care about you...
DAC [193]-
I did not communicate my loss to people who already didnt know
about it. Sometimes it happened unexpectedly when there was no
choice. One time I was on my way to a group meeting and I heard a
song on the radio and I ended up crying all the way to where I was
going to meet my group members... and with tears streaming down my
84


face I had to explain.. .they were pretty gracious... sometimes maybe
people who dont know something like that is going on in you life seem
to be more caring...
DAC [214]-
I like being able to choose who I want to talk to about it and when I
want to do that, Im not sure Id want it to be coming up from
strangers.. .from people Im not willing to talk about that with.. .1 wish
there was a better way for this kind of news to be communicated to
those people who are close to you and need to know.. those close to
you who havent found out about it tend to be very hurt that they dont
know...
^ ^
DAC [249]-
I do spend time talking about my dads death and things that happen to
us. I think anytime you loose somebody close to you.. .you have so
much more empathy.. .1 think what helped the most, the cards and
letters, and people that were just around us.. .what hurts is when
friends youve known for a long time dont contact you...
85


DAC [2823-
Discussing this now.. .actually this isnt bad now that Ive got it started,
but yeah...Im uncomfortable... changing my thoughts so I dont have
to think about how uncomfortable I am...
DAC [311]-
I feel like I need some privacy if I want to talk to my dad by myself.. .if
somebody close to me would just put their arms around me and let me
cry and feel what I need to feel.. .but you know it seems like part of
what goes along with all this is trying not to make anybody else feel
bad.. .what do you think Teri? But we try not to cry when people
come by.. .when they call on the phone... and Im not sure why...I
think what I wish most is for somebody to let me do that...
DAC [3303-
Even though I say thats what Id like, for someone to hold me and let
me cry, Id have a hard time doing that for someone else because that
may not be what they want.. .what have you found in all of this, do
people want different things, some people dont want to be touched or
held....
86


sj: ifc}{?
DAC [3361-
In my bible study we were talking about it one night about good friends
and fathers dying.. .my friend said you know sometimes it feels like an
ocean.. .and sometimes when it first happens its like wave after wave
after wave.. .but pretty soon the waves get farther apart.. .but every
once in a while it hits you when you least expect it...
DAC [350]-
I think that when youre trying to communicate with other people that
are experiencing grief, just do it, write a card, go see them, do
something so they dont have to ask.. .thats really hard.. .youre going
through so much to have to ask for things in your life.. .for help.. .thats
so difficult.. .let me know if you need somebody to put their arms
around you so you can cry it out too.. .love ya...
end cov 7
\
87


JLS
DATE: 3/12/96
COY 6
Setting
JLS asked to meet at a restaurant at six oclock on a Tuesday evening.
We ordered dinner and ate prior to the interview. JLSs relationship with the
interviewers was considered one of acquaintance, and is now considered more
of a friendship.
Synopsis
JLS spoke about her fathers life and their relationship. She became
very emotional when discussing the events surrounding his death. She
concluded with how her extended family system has adjusted since their loss in
June of 1993. Following the interview, JLS described the experience of the
interview as euphoric.
JLS [209]-
We didnt take either of our kids to the hospital.. .none of us took our
kids, because before when he had the bypass, it kinda scared my kids
with all the tubes and stuff... it was... and I just didnt think that
88


they... .well I knew I couldnt help them... and I knew I didnt want
to... I knew it was just better to do it this other way...
JLS[220]-
Sometimes when like Im telling the story its like it happened
yesterday.. .and its like.. .has it really been that long? You know
cause you forget... and you let yourself forget...
JLS [296]-
Most of my cousins, my dads sisters kids are in Florida and Georgia,
and they couldnt come to the services, but they called... so we talked
to them on the phone.. .you know thats what we say about
funerals.. .you know thats the only time the family gets together
anymore... and so it was spent in reminiscing.. .it was really nice.
s$c sfc
JLS [301]-
A lady I play tennis with, she was my tennis partner, and were friends,
but were not really close or anything, but she and her husband and her
son came to the services, and I thought that is really a nice thing to do
something like that...and they had never met my dad.. .they just came
89


as a support for me and I thought that was a really nice thing... actually
what is really nice with a house full of people.. .is that you dont have
to do anything.. .you dont have to worry about finding something to
eat or picking up the kitchen...
JLS [319]-
After the service on Sunday, I told my husband.. .Im just going to stay
with mom tonight... everybody will be gone... and we just sat
there... we just sat in the living room... and we just sat there.
JLS [355]-
t: Did you and your mom talk about what happened?
J: You know Im trying to think if we really talked about it... not like
rehashing, that kind of thing. .1 mean I think we just talked more about
memories.. .more of that... every time you tell the story again, it think it
just gives you.. .uhmm.. .it helps you get out more of the pain of the
loss... I think if people say well tell me about it... you know... you
want to tell people.. .but like my friend Rose, I dont want to go up to
her and say well tell me about what happened with Sam even though
I know that is what I wanted...I cant do that...
90



JLS [367]-
And you know you dont think it hurts because you dont think about it
all the time, you know Im sure youre going through.. with your
dad.. youre so busy with school now, I mean how often do you think
about it? ...How is that, hearing your thoughts on these tapes? Does
that help you to just hear your voice say... It makes it real just hearing
it...
JLS [413]
t: I think youre right, I think one of the biggest helps is just telling it
and having a place where you can...
J: And not being afraid.. .if youre sitting around thinking about it so
many times it doesnt have the same emotional impact as saying it out
loud.. .1 mean if I think about it I dont cry.. .but if I say.. .1 mean look
how long its been.. .1 feel it just as powerfully now as if it was
yesterday...
JLS [524]-
t: Do you talk to your brothers real openly about it?
91


Full Text

PAGE 1

RE-SOCIALIZATION OF THE BEREAVED VIA INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUES by Teresa Anne Werner B A., Metropolitan State College ofDenver, 1993 A thesis submitted to the University of Colorado at Denver in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Communication 1996

PAGE 2

1996 by Teresa Anne Werner All rights reserved.

PAGE 3

This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Teresa Anne Werner approved Michael Monsour

PAGE 4

Werner, Teresa Anne (M.A., Communication) Re-Socialization of the Bereaved via Interpersonal Communication Techniques Thesis directed by Professor Jon A. Winterton ABSTRACT This research focused on the communication behavior of bereaved individuals using the ethnography of communication methodology From the eight individuals interviewed, three main bereavement communication categories emerged and were described ; Private Interaction, Impersonal Interaction, and Interpersonal Interaction. Two supplementary communication techniques were then posited in order to facilitate communication within those categories. The methodology proved to be a useful tool in elucidating the categories of communication behavior utilized by the bereaved and was also found to be effective in facilitating bereavement communication. This abstract accurately represents the content recommend its publication. Signed lV

PAGE 5

DEDICATION This project is dedicated to those who have gone before us; L.Z "TEX'' T. DANNY M JUSTIN RAY BILL W. BILL C. ANNM. FRANK ALLEN and to all of those who will remain after us. "Share with us our sadness, and we will share with you our joys Unknown

PAGE 6

CONTENTS CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Operational Definitions . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Problem Statement . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Thesis Development . . . . . . . . .. . . . 5 2. LITEFU\TUREREV1EVV ....................... 7 Psychological Aspects ofBereavement . . . . . 7 Definitions of Grief . . . . . . . . . 8 Stages of Grief . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Bereaved Relationships . . . . . . . . 11 Sociological Aspects ofBereavement . . . . . 12 Complexity of Grief . . . . . . . . . 12 Social Systems of Support . . . . . . . 14 Communication Aspects ofBereavement. ........ 19 Initiation Difficulties . . . . . . . . . 20 Narration as a Bereavement Communication Model. . . . . . . . . 24 Vl

PAGE 7

3. RESEARCH METHOD . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Research Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Participant Demographics. . . . . . . . . . 31 Procedure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 2 4. THE RESULTS.............................. 35 Communication Behavior . . . . . . . . . . 36 Private Interaction . . . . . . . . . . 3 7 Impersonal Interaction . . . . . . . . 3 8 Interpersonal Interaction . . . . . . . 40 Variables Influencing Bereavement Communication . . . . . . . . 41 Type of Death . . . . . . . . . . . 41 Length of Time Since Death . . . . . . 43 Type ofRelationship .................. 45 Relationships ofindividuals Involved in Bereavement Communication . . . . 4 7 The Positing of Specific Communication Techniques . . . . . . . . . 51 Desire for Outside Initiation. . . . . . . 54 The Non-Negotiable Topic .............. 55 Two Techniques ofCommunication ....... 56 Conclusion ofResults ....................... 60 vii

PAGE 8

5. DISCUSSION....... ........... . ... ......... 66 The Speech Conimunity . . . . . . . . . . 66 Communication Patterns . . . . . . . . . . 67 Private Interaction . . . . . . . . . 68 Impersonal Interaction . . . . . . . . 68 Interpersonal Interaction. . . . . . . . 69 Interaction with Other Cultural Systems . . . . 69 Cntlque........ .. . . . . . . . . . . . 71 Strengths . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71 Weaknesses . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 4 Implications for Future Research. . . . . . . . 75 APPENDIX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78 A. INFORMED CONSENT FORM . . . . . . . . . . 78 B. QUESTIONS FOR THE INTERVIEW . . . . . . . 80 C. THE ACCOUNTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81 D. CONFIRMATION OF INTERVIEW INTERPRETATION. . . . . . . . . 135 REFERENCES ...... . .................. . . . . ......... 136 Vlll

PAGE 9

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS With great appreciation, I would like to acknowledge the faculty and staff of the Department of Communication at the University of Colorado at Denver for their patience and immeasurable support for this project. I am eminently indebted to my advisor Jon Winterton, for his ceaseless enthusiastic encouragement to reach beyond my perceived limitations and to my committee members; Benita Dilley for her unwavering guidance and assiduous confidence in my abilities, Carl Johnson for his amiable reassurances and commitment to my development as a scholarly individual, and Mike Monsour for his unmediated compassion and regard for the completion of this project. I would also like to extend the depth of my appreciation to the participants in this research; DC, JLS, KLS, MSK, MRF, RMT, IT, & ST. Without their wisdom of insight and gracious willingness to share their deepest losses, this project would not have been possible. A final acknowledgment of appreciation for my assistant editors, DFW and JAS, whose keen eyes added to the development of this project. IX

PAGE 10

CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION The purpose of this research is to explore the communication dynamics experienced between bereaved individuals and their extended network of friends and co-workers. By a close examination of communication experienced between these two groups of individuals, this research intends to elucidate a technique of interpersonal communication that will facilitate a bereaved individual's comfortable re-entry into their social system and at the same time provide guidelines for individuals in the extended network that will aid their own level of comfort in communicating with the bereaved upon their re-entry Operational Definitions For the purpose of this research the following operational definitions will apply: Bereaved: Those individuals who can be categorized as a spouse, parent, sibling, or child of the deceased Extended friends/co-workers : Any individual who has no direct relationship 1

PAGE 11

with the deceased, yet maintains a social or business relationship with the bereaved These individuals will also be called the non-bereaved Direct relationship: A biological connection and/or personal connection with the deceased, developed either socially or related to business. Interpersonal communication : Any direct communication contact, oral, written, or non-verbal, between two individuals. Re-socialization/re-entry: The attempt of the bereaved individual to return to meeting the demands of their pre-bereavement daily activities, including work or social activities, and commencing after the death rituals for their loved one have been completed Co-worker's/friend's comfort level in communication re-entry: The ability to initiate communication at an interpersonal level with the bereaved about their experience of the loss of their loved one through death. Bereaved's comfort level in communication re-entry: The ability for the bereaved to initiate the expression of the facts surrounding, or their emotions their experience of the loss of their loved one through death These operational definitions are offered in order to clarify the individuals involved in the communication event of initiating conversation about the bereaved's experience of loss in reference to the process of re-socialization. 2

PAGE 12

Problem Statement The event of death may be experienced as a result of one of many forms; accidental death, suicidal death, slow terminal-illness death unexpected illness death or homicidal death The ways in which bereaved individuals deal with the death of a loved one as a result of any one of the previously mentioned forms is as diverse as the A.riterican culture. However, across the diversity one universal concept remains stable ; the impact one's loss has on their communication with extended family friends and co-workers Within the social network of the bereaved, the ability to communicate about the death is often temporarily disabled For most individuals, this inability to communicate increases the stress surrounding such an event. Rarely, at any other event in the life of an individual, does such a communication dilemma occur. The need to communicate at a time of bereavement is critical to the well being of the bereaved; interpersonal communication can serve to validate their experience of loss and also validate their status as a continuing, functional, and stable member of their social network. Communication, as a reciprocal process, becomes doubly disabled at this life and death experience because the individuals involved in the reciprocity become "communicationally disabled ". The bereaved report discomfort in 3

PAGE 13

initiating their profound grief; they do not want to burden others with the sadness that permeates their life The extended family, friends and co-workers report discomfort in initiating communication fearing the possibility of adding further pain to the sadness and discomfort already experienced by the bereaved. Therefore, neither individual is comfortable in initiating communication and communication is thereby impaired This communication difficulty is experienced to some degree by all individuals touched by the death of an individual; from immediate family to acquaintances in the outer social network. However, the focus of this research will specifically examine the extended network of individuals that constitute the social web in which the bereaved previously interacted on a regular basis. The necessity for the focus of this research to exclude those extended individuals who have had a direct relationship with the deceased is because their communication with the bereaved will also be influenced by their own sense of direct personal loss Therefore, the intent of this research is to examine only the communication difficulty that exists when one communication participant has no direct experience ofloss in the death ofthe bereaved's love one, but must somehow find a way to communicate with the bereaved, on a regular basis, within their common social network 4

PAGE 14

This researcher suggests, that with careful and systematic review of the literature combined with in-depth interviews involving individuals with bereavement experiences, some type of general interpersonal technique can be elucidated that will decrease the communication stress and provide comfortable levels for initiating communication in death related life events for both the bereaved and their extended friends and co-workers. This descriptive study has three goals: 1) Provide a description of currently experienced communication behavior associated with bereavement; 2) IdentifY important variables influencing bereavement communication; and 3) The positing of specific interpersonal communication techniques that may initiate and facilitate communication about grief and loss for both the bereaved and non-bereaved Thesis Development To begin to comprehend the context in which the communication disability occurs, literature from the fields of psychology, sociology, and communication will be reviewed From the psychological perspective, an understanding of the bereavement process for an individual will be addressed. A sociological perspective will provide the scope of social support systems and their place in the context ofbereavement. The communication perspective will address the communicative interaction difficulties experienced by the bereaved, 5

PAGE 15

their family and friends, and the non-bereaved. Then a review of literature directly relating to the overall viability of specific interpersonal bereavement communication techniques will be addressed. From this premise, a ethnographic method of interview inquiry will be implemented to explore possible interpersonal communication techniques that have been beneficial or harmful to the bereaved in their process of re-socialization. The implications and potential for implementing a specific interpersonal communication technique for the bereaved and their extended fiiends and co-workers will then be discussed in reference to the advantages and possible obstacles for future research in this area. 6

PAGE 16

CHAPTER2 LITERATURE REVIEW A systematic review of the literature was accomplished using the CARL System, the UnCover System, Psychological Abstracts, and Communication Abstracts. Articles and books dealing with the religious or philosophical aspects of death were purposively omitted from this research due to the focus on interpersonal communication about loss. Communication about the death of a loved one has some impact upon all individuals across the boundaries of religious or philosophical choices, if only because individuals across all religious or philosophical boundaries may find communication about their loss necessary with individuals who may not share those same religious or philosophical choices Therefore, the focus here is not the religious or philosophical foundations that best sustain the bereaved during their time of loss The focus is on the techniques of interpersonal communication that can facilitate all of those involved in the re-socialization of the bereaved Psychological Aspects ofBereavement In the field of psychology, bereavement has been studied in respect to an individual's personal experience of the loss of a loved one A large amount 7

PAGE 17

of research has been conducted concerning the psychological aspects of the dying individual and their ability to communicate about their imminent death with their loved ones. Then, after the individual's death, psychology examines the remaining loved ones experience of sadness or depression due to their loss This sadness or depression has been labeled grief and/or bereavement. Definitions of Grief In 1994, Copp described grief as an individual's "life pain [that] compounds itself[and] has three tenses: remembered pain, experienced pain and anticipated pain" (p. 222). This description of grief elucidates the complexity of emotionality experienced by the bereaved. In considering the bereaved s attempt to re-establish themselves after a personal loss, they still remember the pain stemming from their initial loss; they experience pain in the remembering of the loss; and they anticipate further pain knowing they must adjust to a social world that no longer includes their loved one. Included in this complex definition of grief is the concept that the grieving person undergoes an intrapersonal fundamental change Copp suggested that the emotionality of grief is a "pain of inner growth [from which] one never returns to the presuffering state with all that it may signify" (p. 236) This intrapersonal change results from a circumstantial change that "brings about a 8

PAGE 18

shift in identity" at the intrapersonallevel (Silverman, 1994, p. 241 ). Subsequently, there is evidence to suggest that the experience of grief is not a voluntary emotional choice; rather, grief is conceived in an uncontrollable circumstantial event that has a personal, life changing impact. Stages of Grief The compartmentalized stages ofbereavement, from initial shock, through denial, protest, anger, depression, and eventual renewal, are well documented in the field ofPsychology (e.g., KOhler-Ross, 1969; Parkes, 1972; Sanders, 1989; Shuchter & Zisook, 1993; Worden, 1982). Cochran & Claspell (1987) refer to the stages of grief as a story with "a beginning, middle, and end It begins with a devastating loss and ends with a reorientation to living" (p. 93). The psychological literature intending to aid individuals in times of grief has historically focused on these categorical stages of grief Miles & Derni (1994) documented the historically accepted duration ofthese stages of grief and found that griefwas perceived as a long-term process in the beginning of the century; considered a short term crisis in the forties through the sixties; and is now perceived as a long term process again. Yet, no matter how fluctuating the duration of grief has been perceived, grieving remains conceptualized as an individual process, continuing through stages, with 9

PAGE 19

general agreement in the belief that the bereaved will eventually recover from their grief and return to a pre-bereavement state of existence. Keith ( 1981) addressed a concern about grief as a process of stages in educational literature: Among those who study and read about the subject of death, there is an expectation that [through a cognitive understanding of the stages of grief] they can immunize themselves from the impact of a death and thus can escape the feelings of acute grief (p. 202) And yet, as Silverman (1995) explained, death is "the universal stressor to which we all need to learn to respond" (p. 245). Evans (cited in Corr, 1995) stated this categorization dilemma most succinctly: "We have created systems which protect us in the aggregate from facing up to the very things that as individuals we most need to know" (p. 354). Kastenbaum (1982) argued that the socially accepted construct of grief categories denies individuals and society the emotionality of grief and at the same time implies that complete emotional recovery can be expected at the concluding stage so that life may return to normal. Silverman, (1994) provided further insight and indicated that the categorization of grief into stages "ignores the identity shift ... and does not recognize the fundamental change that the death introduces into the life of the mourner" (p.248) Silverman emphasized that grief should not be conceptualized as an illness that can be avoided and 10

PAGE 20

from which recovery should be expected to the extent that "people will pick up their lives and carry on as before" (p. 247). Bereaved Relationships In addition to the problematic construct of stages that serve to contain bereavement as an illness initiated by crisis, another complexity of bereavement is overlooked. Bereavement is not solely contained within the individual. The human being does not exist in isolation. Humans are born into relationships and die within relationships. We all desperately need to belong, whether it be with one other or with a whole host of others. The sense of being a part of something is as vital to life as food or sleep. (Sanders, 1989, p. 232) However, the psychological categorization of bereavement isolates the grief experience within the individual, creating an individualistic isolated "emotional problem" In this respect, psychology only offers the intrapersonal scope of grief How individuals cope with their grief as an "identity shift" also involves the re-construction of their social relationships through interaction. Identity is more than an individualistic construction, it is also a social phenomenon of interaction. In summary, Silverman (1994) stated: Grieving, then, is a social process, more than simply dealing with feelings. It may better be characterized as a critical period of transition. The transition ends when the individual has developed a new sense of self and assumed a new role in society. (p. 247) 11

PAGE 21

Therefore, a further review of sociological and communication literature is required in order to grasp the interpersonal scope of bereavement and the problems encountered in the re-socialization process Sociological Aspects ofBereavement There is sufficient evidence in the literature to indicate that the concept of bereavement is extensively more than an individualistic experience. At the very least, Cochran & Claspell (1987) note that "there seems to be a social timetable for grief that requires one to 'snap out of it on time"' (p.74) This social component, whatever the depth of involvement, adds to the complexity of grief Complexity of Grief In 1972, Parkes explained there are actually two specific aspects related to death; the physical death and the social death. Furthermore, Parkes suggested "physical death and social death do not take place simultaneously" (p. 156). After the physical death of a loved one, bereavement not only consists of dealing with the pain of personal loss, but also entails the process of realizing that the experience of a social death is unfolding: "Death involves not just the bereaved family but also the significant [social] others of the dead and 12

PAGE 22

their relatives" (Pine, 1974, p 34). According to Blauner (cited in Pine, p 34), "mortality tends to disrupt the ongoing life of social groups and relationships [and] all societies must develop some forms of containing the impact". Therefore, death and bereavement can be considered a social phenomena necessitating some social responsibility in managing the impacts. Bowen (1978) defined the emotional complexity of grief in a social context: "No life event can stir more emotionally directed thinking in the individual and more emotional reactiveness in those about him [sic]" (p. 322). Rosenblatt (1993) added to this social complexity: "Grief may reflect not only the loss itself, but also the loss of the foundation for dealing with the loss" (p. 102). Carse (1981) accentuated the necessity "to emphasize that grief. .. drives us to the formidable task of reassembling a new universe" (p. 5). In their 1993 review, Shuchter & Zisook stated: It should not be surprising that persons living through what is likely to be the most profoundly disruptive experience in their life are subject to dramatic changes in the ways in which they perceive themselves and the world around them. (p 40). The aftermath of an individual's bereavement extends into that individual's social network in such a manner that the effects, compounding with each wave of interaction, become so complex as to render any emotional resolution a seemingly hopeless situation Systems of support develop to soften and dilute the emotional impact for the bereaved and their social networks. 13

PAGE 23

Social Systems of Support Kalish (1985) suggested "the ways in which we mourn are heavily influenced by our culture" (p 182) In managing and dealing with griefwithin the American culture, three general support systems have been identified; the professional support system, the interpersonal friends & family support system, and the extended support system of casual acquaintances Yet even with three social systems of support, according to Kastenbaum (1981 ), the American culture is not adequately performing the function of managing the impacts of mortality. This was evidenced through observations "about the reduction in conspicuous signs of mourning [due to] a mass, efficiency-oriented society" which consequently inhibited any social management of the impact of grief In other words, in the American culture, "mourning gets in the way" (p 232) This view is further supported by Keith (1981): At a time when man [sic] needs stabilizing behavior patterns more than ever to resolve grief, it is ironic that there are efforts to minimize the ritual and context of responses to a death (p. 205) To comprehend the extent and management of grief via support systems in the American culture, the three support systems will be reviewed Professional Support Professional social support for the bereaved has traditionally consisted of the counseling by religious leaders, mediated support groups, hospice and/or personal psychological counseling Professional 14

PAGE 24

support systems have been reported to have some advantages in helping the bereaved who seek their services (e.g., Miles & Demi). Even so, there are conflicting views about the actual viability of professional support systems. In favor of the professional systems, Vachon & Stylianos (1988) acknowledged the importance of pre-existing personal relationships in helping the bereaved, but cautioned that the impact of the death could draw the "entire group into distress" and render the interpersonal support process ineffective (p 175). On the other hand, Shuchter (1986) cautioned that professional support systems can have a negative impact on the bereaved: While the relationships with other bereaved people [or professional counselors] may provide a unique sanctuary in which to open one's deepest feelings ... these relationships can become stultifying ... when they become limited to the sharing of grief experiences. (p. 225) In addition, Kubler-Ross (1969) submitted that not all individuals have access to professional support systems or may be able to afford professional support .even if they have access. Interpersonal Relationship Support. In reference to traditional interpersonal relationships as a major source of support for the bereaved, Gottlieb ( 1981) investigated the social support systems in communities and found that the social distance between the system and the individual in need L was a determining factor in the actual benefit of the support. The support most beneficial to those in need was support from individuals or groups who had the 15

PAGE 25

most knowledge at an interpersonal level about the individual in need. Silverman (1995) added emphasis to this notion ofthe importance of the family and friend support system and re-iterated the conclusions found in her 1986 work : "The bereaved need friends to help with the concrete tasks of living . as they try to establish a lifestyle appropriate to their new situation" (p 247). In 1994, Barnes & Duck explained the importance of the friends and family support system : When people experience a crisis, however infrequently, however serious or acute, however soluble it ultimately turns out to be, they initially turn to those people with whom they have continuous relationships, rather than to people who are acknowledged experts in solving crises of the type that they are experiencing (p 175) In the 1989 study initiated by Sanders, "when asked what was the greatest help in getting through bereavement, [the bereaved] overwhelmingly answered 'friends and family'. Relationships were valued the most" (p 231). This situation in which the bereaved report that their most beneficial support is derived from their friends and family presents a conflicting interactive problem Parkes (1972) noted that friends often find themselves at a loss when interacting with the bereaved because there is a recognition that neither party "can give the other what he [sic] wants The helper cannot bring back the person who is dead and the bereaved person cannot gratify the helper by seeming helped." (p. 163) In addition, Goffinan (1971) noted that "the 16

PAGE 26

greater the change in the self of a person, the further he [sic] can be physically from those whom he [sic] yet defines as close enough for the telling" (p. 69). In the 1986 study done by Lehman, Ellard, & Wortman, results disclosed that the "majority of the unhelpful responses were received from family members and close friends [in comparison to] more casual acquaintances" (p 443) Lehman et al., suggested the reasons why family and close friends may offer "unhelpful responses" might possibly be due to their greater anxiety in attempting to relieve the "bereaved person's distress [because] their own lives are particularly likely to be disrupted by the victim's continued dysfunction and distress" (p. 44 3). Complicating the need for interpersonal support at the friend and family level, there is evidence to suggest that the traditional interpersonal system of bereavement support in the American culture is slowly eroding away (Keith, 1981 ) Communities are experiencing a decrease in the development of interpersonal relationships within neighborhoods because of the diversity of employment and schedules, while families and friends find themselves spread out over the entire globe due to employment transfers and increased mobility. Therefore, the interpersonal social support system, consisting of"a close family unit (psychologically and geographically) [and] a caring community [that provides] a social fabric of reinforcement" (Keith, p. 203), is not oruy reported 17

PAGE 27

to be the most depended upon support system, it is also the system that is quietly dying within our society Casual Acquaintance Support. In the extended support system of casual acquaintances, the bereaved find that activities have continued on as usual and without them This can provide the comfort of social stability while at the same time accentuate the depth of change the bereaved person has experienced Goffinan (1971) described the ritual of ratification in extended networks as a possible key factor of support in that system. In this support ritual, there exists a necessity to: Express that the performer is alive to the situation of the one who has sustained change, that he [sic] will continue his [sic] relationship to him [sic], that support will be maintained, that in fact things are what they were in spite of the acknowledged change. (p. 67) This ritual in the context of casual acquaintances can provide the bereaved with a sense of stability in the external world at a time when their internal world has been shattered and their circle of geographically close friends and family has decreased in size. In essence then, the bereaved enter into a marginal social position where they experience uneasiness in their interactions within their decreasing familiar social system, have not yet adjusted to a new system in which they can comfortably function, and are regularly confronted with the seeming stability of the extended world This marginality is forced upon the bereaved and their 18 ---

PAGE 28

social system and thereby a compounded sense of loss is created for all of those whose life is touched by the bereaved individual. Initially, the professional support system may help the bereaved sort out their personal emotional complexity, but the professional system can do little to facilitate a new social position for the bereaved within their pre-existing network of friends, family, and acquaintances. In 1994, Zimmermann & Applegate elucidated that acquiring social support in any one of the three systems is more than just having access to that support system. Social support is an interactional accomplishment. The conditions calling for support efforts ... are studied in a way that gives prominence to communication as the process that defines support and the world in which support occurs (p. 52) Therefore, the availability or access to support systems within the American culture is not enough to facilitate support in the process of social reorganization for the bereaved and non-bereaved; interaction is a critical component. At this point, interpersonal communication becomes the focal point of there-socialization process for the bereaved. Communication Aspects ofBereavement In the American culture, interlaced with highly efficient technological communication, individuals can interact with others around the globe and while 19

PAGE 29

orbiting the globe. Yet in the area of bereavement, there is evidence to suggest that individuals experience tremendous difficulty communicating their feelings, even to their closest friends (Borden & Stone, 1972). At the intrapersonal level, the bereaved may feel so overwhelmed by the complexity of grief that they "may hardly understand [their] own behavior, let alone be able to translate it and justify it to [others]" (Copp, 1994, p. 225). As a result, in the expression of grief, neither the bereaved nor those they come in contact with are comfortable in initiating communication. Initiation Difficulties Vail (1982) surmised that "we are unsure ofwhat to say and afraid we will say the wrong thing" (p. 72). Parkes (1972) added that communication becomes difficult because "conversation about trivialities is irrelevant at such time .... This is not a situation in which there is a proper thing to say; trite formulae serve only to widen the gap between bereaved and non-bereaved" (p.163). In 1967, Sudnow observed the following: [In] American society particularly, where bereaved persons do not wear visible insignia of their grief, it is a continually problematic matter both for them and others as to the proper relevance of their own status as an attendable matter in conversation. (p. 137) 20

PAGE 30

A conversational paradox for both the bereaved and non-bereaved develops First of all, ultimately the bereaved seek to re-enter into everyday conversational talk" The sheer fact of conducting a conversation in situations where talk might appear a strange activity .. locates the event, despite its tragic character, as a nonetheless handleable matter. In doing 'talk' persons affirm their sense of the essential stability of their conditions ... (p 149) Barnes & Duck (1994) noted "everyday talk functions as a relationship perpetuation or maintenance strategy ... which in tum serves to sustain a person's sense ofbeing supported" (p. 185) Yet Sudnow observed that with each new encounter, the bereaved are "obliged to appear sufficiently grievous as to warrant .. offers of condolences" (p 138) and everyday talk is disrupted by sympathy exchanges. At the same time Sudnow (1967) noted the bereaved also need to express their emotions for which there is no everyday conversational convention to guide them In expressing their loss, the interpretation of "soliciting sympathy" may put "the recipient . in the position of having to produce sympathy on the spot . and .. may deprive gestures of sympathy of their central powers, the sense, at least, that they are genuinely offered" (p. 163) In addition to not wanting to "solicit sympathy", the bereaved are often reluctant to initiate communication that entails asking for help from others in an effort to decrease any further personal burden upon others (Kalish, 1985, p. 21

PAGE 31

275). This unwillingness to initiate conversation leads the bereaved "to a strong dependency on anyone who will stimulate the bereaved to activity and serve as the initiating agent" (Wilcox & Sutton, 1981, p 150). For the non-bereaved, initiating conversation directly addressing the loss may bring about an unpredictable emotional reaction and overwhelming emotional response by the bereaved that the non-bereaved find difficult to handle Borden & Stone (1972) observed : We have had, in our culture, a general attitude toward all of our emotions that seemed to regard them as dangerous potentials which each person carried within him [sic] and which might go off without warning or reason (p. 128) To add complexity, Owens (1986) reported that "each individual has to deal with [their own] strong emotions being experienced and in addition has to handle the other persons strong emotions" (p. 383). If the non-bereaved "sidesteps" the topic of loss and maintains everyday talk, the bereaved may perceive the non-bereaved as an uncaring individual because of the non-validation of the bereaved individual's status Therefore, both the bereaved and non-bereaved find themselves conversationally disabled within the conventional constructs of interpersonal communication. To seek a model from which to construct some type of conversational norm in situations ofbereavement Strickland & DeSpelder (1995) suggested that "entertainment programs" only add to the confusion 22

PAGE 32

about how individuals engage in conversations about death. Strickland & DeSpelder submitted that for the most part, death is viewed in the media as an "accidental [and/or] violent" external event [death happens to other people and their loved ones] and audiences subsequently view "the incomplete picture of what death means in the lives of human beings" (p. 41). The accomplishment of communication between the bereaved and non bereaved is an essential component for the re-socialization process to be achieved. Yet at the conventional method of daily social conversation, wherein conversational familiarity exists, communication uncertainty is consistently encountered Balber (1995) suggested that the root ofthe conversation problem lies in the fact that "there is a need to rediscover how to talk about one's deepest, unspoken feelings" (p 71) Sudnow (1967) offered this insight: "The opportunity to express grief is an opportunity for the expression of intimacy" (p 163) To talk about out emotions involves intimate communication which necessitates constructing a model of communication beyond the scope of conventional daily interaction models. A model of emotional intimacy communication would allow for the "explaining oneself to others [and would be] negotiated through social interaction and communication" (Weber, Harvey, & Orbuch, 1992, p 261). This notion of 23

PAGE 33

negotiating one's self through social interaction via communication has been gaining attention in the field of communication over the last several years. Narration as a Bereavement Communication Model In 1989, Tannen identified the above mentioned type of communication construction as "storytelling" She defined storytelling [as] a means by which humans organize and understand the world .. [and it] is a supremely social act" (p. 103, 133). In applying storytelling as a model of social bereavement communication, the opportunity for storytelling allows individuals to be emotionally expressive and enhances their ability to construct a meaning about their emotions. Storytelling then, can be viewed as a conversational model for self-disclosure/intimacy involving emotional expression. Attig (1995) added another important aspect to storytelling: "people telling their own stories [are] transformed by that act into active interpreters of their lives" (p. 9) In addition, Hargie (1986) stated "the type of self-disclosure to others will even affect the degree of his [sic] own self-knowledge and awareness" (p. 234). In an account of their personal narrative, Bochner & Ellis (1992) explained: "the reflexivity of performing a personal narrative [a.k.a. storytelling] draws to the ways in which communication is used to reveal ourselves to ourselves" (p 171 ). Therefore, storytelling can facilitate 24

PAGE 34

personal introspection for the bereaved and thereby help in defining their newly evolving sense of"self'. Weber et al. (1992), described storytelling as an "account ". They defined accounts as the "matrix of our identity concepts . [and] are, essentially, about other people in individuals lives and experiences [and] are refined and negotiated through social interaction and communication" (p. 262) Cochran & Claspell (1987) added that the constructed story serves to achieve a meaning or purpose of the experience in the life of the bereaved. In this sense, both the bereaved and non-bereaved can have a specific "storytelling" communication purpose, other than the discomforting experience of sorrowful expression. Mandelbaum's 1989 research proposed a unique dimension to account making as an interpersonal communication technique; account making involves more than the one sided direction of the story teller. Not only is the recipient integrally involved in working out with the teller what the storytelling is about; the recipient is also the teller's partner in constituting what it is that the telling 'does' for instance, whether it praises or blames, complains or celebrates. (p. 114) Accordingly Attig (1995) surmised "it is a challenging mode of communication that exposes [both] the participants to considerable risk, especially the risk of personal transformation through the process" (p 13). Additionally, Borden & Stone (1976) pointed to the developmental concept of 25

PAGE 35

meaning in storytelling: "it is only ifwe become involved in the experiencing of the event (and this necessitates some commitment to its outcome) that the event becomes meaningful" (p 74). In conclusion, Harvey, Weber, & Orbuch (1990) suggested the role of accounts in grief experience "may have two tasks: a personal agenda of grief and coping; and a social program focused on sharing stories with others" (p 104). As a result of these two tasks, the potential of re-constructed social interactions unfolds This two-fold purpose and subsequent result of account making may be the key in facilitating communication necessary for the re socialization process of the bereaved to be accomplished. 26

PAGE 36

CHAPTER3 RESEARCH :METHOD For the purpose of this research, an ethnographic methodology will be implemented. Specifically, a model termed the "ethnography of communication" by Hymes in1972 (cited in Saville-Troike, 1982), provides the focus ofthis researchers methodological intent. Saville-Troike described the ethnography of communication: The focus of the ethnography of communication is the speech community, the way communication within it is patterned and organized as systems of communicative events, and the ways in which these interact with all other systems of culture. A primary aim of this approach is to guide the collection and analysis of descriptive data about the ways in which social meaning is conveyed ... Among the basic products of this approach are ethnographic descriptions of ways in which speech and other channels of communication are used in diverse communities .. .. (p. 3) Research Design Therefore, the first step in the methodology of ethnographic communication is the identification of the speech community that will be studied However, SavilleTroike emphasizes that "individuals ... may participate in a number of discrete or overlapping speech communities ... which one or ones a person orients himself or herself to at any given moment . is part ofthe strategy of communication" (p. 21). With this in mind, the speech 27

PAGE 37

community identified for the purpose of this research is the community of individuals who have experienced the death of a loved one and are subsequently defined by their status as bereaved individuals per the operational definition stated in Chapter One. SavilleTroike suggests that the second step in communication ethnography is the identification of"discrete units of some kind, with communicative activities that have recognizable boundaries" (p. 28). She suggests that "the communicative event is the basic unit for descriptive purposes" and can be defined as having: A unified set of components throughout, beginning with the same general purpose of communication, the same general topic, and involving the same participants, generally using the same language variety, maintaining the same tone or key and the same rules for interaction, in the same setting. An event terminates whenever there is a change in the major participants, their role-:relationships, or the focus of attention (p 29) The communication event examined in this research is the event of initiating communication about the death of a loved one between the bereaved individual and their family, friends or co-workers. The third step in communication ethnography is determining the procedure for data collection. SavilleTroike suggests that "the most common method of collecting data in any domain of culture is participantobservation" (p.l21). Several problems have been identified with 28

PAGE 38

ethnographers considered to be an "outsider" of the community they are observing and SavilleTroike warns: The investigator, to be able to enter into various speech events relatively unobtrusively as a participant-observer, and one with whom other participants can feel comfortable, should share as closely as possible the same linguistic background and competence as the members of the community under observation. (p.l22) SavilleTroike reported that one advantage of"ethnographers working within their own culture" (p. 110) is that through the combination of"observation and self-knowledge, the ethnographer can plumb the depths and explore the subtle interconnections of meaning in ways that the outsider could attain only with great difficulty, if at all" (p Ill). Due to the recently bereaved status of this researcher, which allows for shared knowledge about the communication event and therefore an "insider" status, the participant-observation method of data collection can be highly effective and will therefore be implemented. Within this method of participant-observation inside the ethnographers own culture, the technique of interviewing will be implemented. SavilleTroike stressed the importance of"being open to new meanings and unforeseen patterns ofbehavior" in the technique of interviewing and explained "it is probably best to impose as little structure as possible on an interview, and to insert questions at natural points in the flow rather than having a rigid schedule of questions to follow" (p. 125). Therefore, an initial 29

PAGE 39

list of questions for the interviews in this study can be found in Appendix B, but they will only be used as a guideline during the interviews. SavilleTroike contends that "the reliability of information [gained from interviewing] can best be judged by asking similar questions of several people in the community and comparing their answers ... (p. 129) This study will initiate the communication event ofbereavement conversation with eight bereaved individuals and each individual will be asked similar questions. Their answers will then be compared. The final step in ethnography of communication is the analysis of the communication event. SavilleTroike maintains that : The ultimate criterion for descriptive adequacy is whether someone not acquainted with the speech community might understand how to communicate appropriately in a particular situation; beyond that we wish to know why those behaviors are more appropriate than alternative possibilities. (p. 108) The results of this research expect to identify and describe current categories of communication behavior within the bereaved community, explore variables that impact those categories and posit communication techniques that may be more appropriate in communication events with the bereaved. In addition to the methodology of ethnography of communication, the method of experimental parallax (J. A. Winterton, personal communication, February 23, 1996) will be employed. Experimental parallax provides the 30

PAGE 40

triangulation necessary for trustworthiness of the method Experimental parallax requires the presence of two interviewers in order to provide collaboration and verification about the findings and results ofthe study. When two independent researchers, by evidencing the same data, can reach a single conclusion, credibility of the conclusions can be enhanced. For the purpose of this study, two researchers will be present at each interview, and immediately following the interview they will analyze the information gathered for the specific purpose of enhancing the credibility of any conclusions. Participant Demographics The participants in this research were chosen because of their experience as bereaved individuals Their bereavement experience has been within the last 12 years, and not less than 3 months ago. The group consists of 6 females and 2 males, all between 30-65 years old and of Caucasian descent. The relationship between 7 participants and the interviewers falls within the operational definition of extended friends/co-workers The remaining participant has a direct relationship with the interviewers. The relationship of individual participants and their deceased loved one include parent, spouse, sibling, and adult-child of the deceased The educational background of the participants ranges from high school education to current enrollment in a 31

PAGE 41

University graduate program One participant resides outside of the state of Colorado All but one ofthe deceased were males Procedure Five participants were approached about their possible participation in this study because of the interviewers' personal knowledge of their bereavement status Upon overhearing conversation about this research, 3 individuals volunteered to participate Until that moment, this researcher had no knowledge of their bereavement status, yet had occasion to interact with them on a regular basis Each participant was given an Informed Consent Form (Appendix A) and a list of possible questions (Appendix B) to review before scheduling an interview date They were instructed to contact this researcher if they still wanted to participate in the study, and a time and place would then be scheduled Each participant was asked to select the sight for the interview in order to meet with their personal needs and comfort during the interview process which is expected to extend between 2-3 hours One male and one female will be interviewed as a couple because of their joint bereavement over the death of their baby Each interview will be recorded and the subsequent discussion between the interviewers will be recorded on the same tape following each interview The substance of the interviews and 32

PAGE 42

ensuing discussion will be transcribed and when necessary actual dialogue will be transcribed to provide clarity of the message Two interviews will be recorded without the presence of any interviewers. One participant has a direct relationship with the interviewer, lives outside the state of Colorado, and volunteered to participate in this way The other participant preferred to respond to the questions in private. Both will record their responses to the same questions provided to all participants and will only state their own thoughts in answering the questions. The tapes of their responses will be delivered to this researcher and these participants have been asked to contact this researcher if they have any questions concerning their participation. The interviewers will discuss their responses on their respective tapes and this discussion will be recorded on a separate tape identified as such The same type of transcription procedure will be implemented as previously discussed A second interviewer was chosen based on his prior familiarity with the participants and his credibility concerning communication knowledge and research This researcher felt that the presence of a complete stranger during the interview would add undue stress to the participants considering the intimate emotionality of the topic to be discussed ; therefore prior familiarity with the participants was a necessity This researcher also sought a competent 33

PAGE 43

individual with similar education in matters of research and communication In meeting the previously stated criteria, the second interviewer was chosen Don Werner is a graduate student in the Department ofCommunication at the University of Colorado, Denver, with considerable research background. He is also considered a friend/co-worker by all the participants, and has a marital relationship with this researcher. 34

PAGE 44

CHAPTER4 THE RESULTS The results of the interviews initiated for the purpose of this research will be discussed in reference to the three goals of this research : 1) A description of currently experienced communication behavior associated with bereavement; 2) Identification of important variables impacting bereavement communication; and 3) A positing of specific interpersonal communication techniques that may facilitate the communication about grief and loss for both the bereaved and non-bereaved A brief summary and partial transcription of each interview can be found in Appendix C. The transcriptions, as well as references to actual dialogue discussed in this section, are identified by the initials of the participants and the tape count reference number that identifies the location of the dialogue on the audio recording, e.g. MSK(OOO). The tape count numbers run consecutively from side to side and tape to tape; therefore no reference will be made as to tape side or tape number. For easy reference, the transcriptions in Appendix C are presented in alphabetical order according to first initial. 35

PAGE 45

Communication Behavior Communication behavior for the bereaved participants of this project fell into three distinct categories that were labeled by this researcher as: Private Interactions, Impersonal Interactions, and Interpersonal Interactions. These categories in no way suggest stages of communication that can be ordered by chronological, developmental, or preferment experience Rather, these categories exist simultaneously, and the participants move freely between the categories beginning from their initial experience of grief through their present state of awareness The categories of communication behavior are both independent and interdependent; that is they are experienced independently of each other, yet because each category is available at any given moment of communication, the category chosen for communication was determined as a result of prior experiences within the other categories of communication behavior. Therefore, the choice of which category of communication would be implemented at a given time was controlled by the bereaved, regardless of the initiating agent or style of initiation. There is evidence that within each category, the bereaved have experienced being both the initiator and the recipient of initiation. However, the experience of being the recipient of initiation was the most desired choice by each of the eight participants. 36

PAGE 46

Private Interaction Within this category of communication behavior, the bereaved sought solitude with their emotions However, both of the male participants expressed difficulty with expressing any emotion privately or publicly (JT/ST (140); KLS (709)]. In this category there was no desire for face-to-face contact with other individuals. However, limited "non-face-to-face" contact in the form of letters or phone calls from other individuals was an element in this category of communication, yet very difficult for one participant [DAC (54)] Private Interaction communication behavior was experienced in a multitude of ways: Listening to music [DAC (193); MRF (514)]; private visits to the cemetery [ST (535)]; crying alone [KLS (626), MRF (717); MSK (668); RMT (281)]; watching sad movies [MSK (893)]; drugs/alcohol [KLS (670)]; and seclusion through depression [IT (570)]. Each instance represents a private, personal interaction with expressing the pain of emotional loss. Also, included within this category, the bereaved accepted and appreciated outside initiation in the form of phone calls or letters [DAC (185, 249); JLS (296); IT (373); MRF (147); RMT (331, 415)] and RMT (506) suggested that the letters were most helpful because they could be read and re-read time and time again. Both KLS (1062) and RMT (380) reported that they were willing to irutiate communication in the form ofletters, but only JT (451) mentioned the 37

PAGE 47

experience of initiating phone calls was beneficial for her within this category. The ability to initiate, and the experience of being the recipient of initiation, was highly valued in this category by all participants and stated very succinctly by MSK (893,1100) and RMT (281). Impersonal Interaction Within the category oflmpersonal Interaction communication behavior, the bereaved sought a social connection in which to express their emotions verbally. The opportunity to say the words about the emotional pain of loss aloud to other individuals was perceived as a necessary part of the participants grief experience [JLS (413); KLS (327); MSK (893)]. This opportunity involves a low risk of personal involvement with the "audience" because the bereaved were not concerned about the impact of their words upon others as much as they were about the need for an avenue in which to verbally express themselves The bereaved neither sought nor anticipated feedback from their "audience", only an open forum for narration. Again, this was manifested differently for each individual : Personal counseling [MSK (983); JT (570)); AA meetings [KLS (1136, 1217)]; church group involvement [DAC (336); JT/ST (598); RMT (469)]; victim advocate programs [JT (239)]; classroom educational settings [JT/ST (521); MSK (782)]; and even in the acceptance of 38

PAGE 48

the invitation for this interview [JLS, JT/ST KLS, MRF & MSK]. This category involves a face-to-face interaction but necessitates a non-judgmental audience an open and safe environment, and an understanding that the experience being expressed is not negotiable via dialogue In this respect, the narrative resulting from self expression does not want or require reciprocal involvement during the initial expression The bereaved initiated contact with groups or individuals knowing that those groups and individuals were providing an open forum for narration None of the bereaved reported initiating communication by asking if they could have an open forum in which to participate in self expression. Therefore, the groups or individuals initiated the formal overarching invitation to participate in open forums, it was up to the bereaved to initiate personal contact and express their willingness to participate in already developed forums All participants were aware to some degree of"open forum" structured situations provided by professional support systems, however not all participants have initiated personal contact with any one of the professional systems [JLS, MRF, & RMT]. Yet, they each initiated their willingness and agreed to participate in the "open forum" structure of this research project and have participated in less structured, non-professional, open forum discussions with some of their friends and/or co-workers 39

PAGE 49

Interpersonal Interaction Within the Interpersonal Interaction category of communication behavior, the bereaved sought a personal re-connection in expressing their emotions This face-to-face interaction includes the need for reciprocal involvement. This category brings with it increased risk for both the bereaved and their "participant" In this category, the bereaved and their participant allow for the opportunity of intimate relationship development, via reciprocal disclosure, which puts both of them at risk to become involved in another's emotional pain and also the potential loss of another close relationship The narrative of emotional loss remains non-negotiable, however there is a willingness to "share" experiences rather than just a "one-sided" expression of them Of the three categories, this appears be the least commonly experienced or acknowledged category Only two of the participants addressed this category directly as a method of communication [JLS (524); RMT (405)]. Others [DAC (330); KLS (822)] expressed a desire to be the recipient of an outside initiation to have interpersonal communication, but expressed discomfort with being the initiator. Still, some participants solicited reciprocal disclosure within the interview process [DAC (119, 330); JLS (367)]. A possible explanation about why this category ofbereavement communication is 40

PAGE 50

the least experienced or the least acknowledged category may be that the lack of prior personal knowledge concerning another individual's experience of loss impedes initiation into this category of communication for both parties A compounding barrier to this communication category is that both parties must, at the same time, be willing to participate within the Interpersonal Interaction category In the other two categories, bereaved individuals make personal decisions, not social decisions, about which category to communicate within Variables Influencing Bereavement Communication Four main variables that have the potential to influence bereavement communication have been identified : 1) Type of death of the loved one; 2) Length oftime since the death; 3) Type of relationship with the deceased; and 4) Relationship of the individuals involved in the bereavement communication. These variables are in no way representative of the scope of possible variables, they represent only the most prominent variables that surfaced within the scope of this study Type ofDeath The ages of the deceased in this study ranged from 6 months old to 83 years old In all but one case, the bereaved indicated that they did not expect 41

PAGE 51

death to be the probable outcome of the situation. Even in the cases of terminal illness [KLS (63, 83); MRF (326)], and the elderly [MSK(344); RMT (145)], medical technology intervention suggested an always present potential for recovery. Therefore, the type of death in relation to the expectation of death, was not seen as a key factor in impacting bereavement communication; only one of the participants expected that their loved one would die. However, the type of death in relation to acceptable cultural norms was a factor. KLS experienced the social stigma of having a loved one die from complications stemming from AIDS in 1985, when the fear of alternate lifestyles and lllV contamination was greater than the compassion for loss KLS' s ability to communicate openly with family and friends about his brother's death was directly impacted by the stigma of the disease [KLS ( 44 7, 544, 692)]. KLS (1217) sought Impersonal Interaction through the AA program and was finally able to verbalize his emotional pain resulting from his brother's death after more thaq. a year ofPrivate Interaction. Eleven years later, he remains cautious about the cause ofhis brother's death evidenced by his communication in his interview [KLS (8, 108)]. JT & ST experienced guilt about their capabilities of parenting due to the type of death of their infant son (140). In 1988, SIDS was a mystery to the medical professionals and it continues to remain a mystery as of this writing 42

PAGE 52

The required investigation on the premise of potential child abuse as a cause of their son's unexpected death made bereavement communication socially difficult for JT & ST (323) JT & ST sought Impersonal Interaction through the SIDS foundation (165, 451) and Victim Advocate groups (239) in order to verbalize their grief experience For these three participants specifically, the Impersonal Interaction category of communication became their primary focus of communication because it allowed for a safe, non-judgmental forum to express their losses. For all three individuals, their initiation in contacting structured groups was critical for their verbal release of emotional experience. The other five participants in this study have been less inclined to initiate contact with these types of structured groups Partly because they do not experience any social stigma attached to the type of death their loved one experienced, and consequently have more latitude when discussing the events of their loved one's death in social situations Length of Time Since Death In this study, the length of time since the death of a loved one ranges from 6 months to 11 years The of time had no influence on the ability to control the non-verbal facial e x pression of emotional loss [JLS (220)]. All 43

PAGE 53

participants became teary eyed during parts of the interview and some asked for a "pause" in the tape [KLS (157)]. There was no observed difference in the current depth of pain, experienced or expressed, between those with longer time periods of adjustment and the more recently bereaved. This observation alone suggests that these emotions of loss are not lessened over time, but rather are as acute today as they were at the initial time [JLS (220)]. Skills to cope with their emotional pain may have increased over time, yet the emotional pain is just as real today as any other time [JLS (413)]. The only observed influence of length of time on communication behavior is the amount of experience the bereaved have had in each of the three categories ofbereavement communication. The individuals KLS, IT, & ST have had the greatest amount of time since their loss and have experienced more depth in each of the three bereavement communication categories Even so, all three categories are still being experienced by those individuals. Individuals with the shortest amount of time since their loss, MRF & RMT, have experienced all three categories of communication behavior, but only have a very limited experience with the Impersonal and Interpersonal Interaction categories. This may suggest that the initial experience of bereavement is confined to the Private Interaction category of communication 44

PAGE 54

behavior, and any further communication is dependent upon initiation, either by the bereaved or non-bereaved, into the other categories. Type of Relationship The type of relationship the bereaved had with the deceased as far as biological relatedness had little influence on the participants communication process. The participants' individual losses extended beyond the boundaries of any biological relationship labels In other words, what these participants experienced was not the loss of a "brother" "father" "mother" "husband" or ' "son" within the context of identified relationship roles; what they did experience was the loss of a shared intimate relationship with another human being What proved to be an important "type of relationship" variable impacting communication behavior was the length of time the relationship existed in the life of the bereaved and the geographical distance between the bereaved and the deceased Length ofTime ofRelationship. The influence of the relationship's length of time on bereavement communication was especially evident in JT & ST's interview. IT & ST had very little they could talk about in reference to the events of their son's life Within their son's short lifetime of only 6 months, there was very little shared life experience they could converse about in 45

PAGE 55

comparison to the events of the past 7 years of experiencing loss This noticeable difference accentuated the depth of loss in their inability to talk about their shared life experiences with their son On the other hand, the life long relationship experiences, ranging from thirty to over forty years, accentuated the depth of loss in the probability that relationships of that longevity will never again be experienced in the span of a single lifetime The death also represented a loss of a historical account of life that quite literally took the majority of a lifetime to develop [MSK; RMT]. The Geographic Distance The consequence of geographic location was most clearly evidenced in the loss of a spouse experienced by RMT and the loss of a son experienced by JT & ST. Because RMT shared the exact same geographic location with her spouse, she also lost the main source of her daily communication experience She expressed this now profoundly noticeable aspect of her lost relationship and the struggle to find that re connection in daily dialogue [RMT (213)]. She also expressed a desire to not think about the week prior to death wherein she was close by her husband each day, awaiting his recovery [RMT (534)]. JT & ST also shared the same geographic location with their son, and addressed the difficulty of their son's absence and the difficulty surrounding decisions about funeral arrangements and burial [JT/ST (239)]. Those participants with the greatest geographical 46

PAGE 56

distance were not present at the time of death nor were they involved in the preparations of the funeral rituals. Their communication does not reflect the emotional aspect of that experience and maintains itself in the realm of shared life experiences [KLS & MSK]. The geographic distance also determined the prominent circle of social interaction that was available for the bereaved. When the funeral rituals were conducted away from the hometown of the bereaved [KLS (8); MSK (568)], the bereaved returned home and had no extended family or friends that had shared the funeral ritual with them, outside of any immediate family members who may have traveled with them. These individuals experienced more initial Private Interaction, yet fewer phone calls and letters, than the other bereaved who had friends and family that were geographically close and shared in the funeral rituals. In the situations of geographic similarities, the funeral rituals became a shared experience, a reason for contact, and the circle of individuals available for communication was larger, but not necessarily desirable. Relationships ofindividuals Involved In Bereavement Communication Of all the variables discussed to this point, the relationship between the individuals involved in bereavement communication appears to have the most influence on the communication technique employed and whether or not any 47

PAGE 57

communication takes place at all. Four categories of relationships became evident: 1) Individuals within the family of origin; 2) Spouse/immediate family; 3) Friends/acquaintances; and 4) Strangers Family of Origin. When all but two of the participants spoke about communicating with family members in their families of origin, they reported that communication attempts were difficult or non-existent [JLS (319); JT/ST (451); KLS (770); Jv.lRF (139); MSK (600)]. Speculation about this communication difficulty included poor prior communication skills that become enhanced with emotional stress [KLS (337 615)], the desire to maintain Private Interaction even when face-to-face interaction in making family decisions was necessary [KLS (298); MSK (568)], the unwillingness to negotiate private emotions through dialogue constructing the "family story" about the death event [KLS (1041, 1062); Jv.lRF (104)], or that all the family members were in crisis together and unable to help each other [JT/ST (239); KLS (430)]. One explanation offered by one ofthe participants that reported no family difficulty in communication [RMT] was that the entire family had worked together in a family owned and operated business for over twenty years and had quite possibly developed friendship/business relationships that complemented their biological relationships and allowed for multiple constructs of communication techniques for interaction 48

PAGE 58

Spouse/Immediate Family. Communication with immediate family members, including spouse and children was only briefly discussed by several participants [DAC (122); JLS (209, 549, 833); KLS (439); 1\IIRF (60, 464); MSK (668, 945)]. However, the interview with JT & ST provided tremendous insight into the actual communication process between spouses. They communicated freely within the Interpersonal Interaction category of communication, respecting each others individual experiences and also validating their joint experience What became apparent in their interaction was that new information surfaced for each of them This suggests that their accounts of the experience do not necessarily reach a stage of completion, but rather new information arises with each new interaction which leads to the understanding that the process of communication bereavement continues to grow and change as the individuals involved grow and change [JT/ST (570)]. Friends/ Acquaintances Communication with friends was reported to be enhanced when the friends were willing to let the bereaved 'just talk" within the Impersonal Interaction category of communication. However, friends who were not willing to participate in bereavement communication within this category have been distanced from the recognized circle of"close friends" [JT/ST (323, 373); KLS (808) ; 1\IIRF (578)]. At the same time, new friends that were previously considered acquaintances have entered the circle of"close 49

PAGE 59

friends" precisely because of their participation in this category of communication [JLS (3 01 ); MRF(14 7) ; MSK (731)]. Participants also expressed comfort in the Interpersonal Interaction category with friends/acquaintances who have also experienced the death of a loved one This was evidenced in the request for reciprocal disclosure during these interviews by participants [DAC; JLS] and within days following the interviews [JT/ST; MRF; RMT]. Strangers In respect to communicating with strangers several participants expressed distress over having to communicate with strangers or just the possibility of a stranger as a second interviewer [DAC (214) ; JLS; MRF; & MSK]. There was evidence that as the interviews progressed, the participants were sharing intimate information not only about themselves, but also their families of origin. In a one-on-one situation such intimate disclosure with a stranger would be extremely uncomfortable and probably would not happen Therefore, the relationship of the individuals involved in the communication had significant impact concerning the amount of emotional and factual disclosure, and the category of communication that was employed by the bereaved The most comfortable and varied communication appeared to occur at the friendship level of relationship for the participants in this study 50

PAGE 60

The impact of these variables on the categories ofbereavement communication behavior is summarized in Table 4.1 on the following page The variable that appears to have the most impact on communication behavior is the type of relationship of the individuals involved in the bereavement communication event Across the communication behavior categories, friends/co-workers are utilized in communication more than any other group and regardless of the impact of any other variable. This finding accentuates the importance of friends and co-workers in facilitating there-socialization of the bereaved From this point it is critical to explore how communication can be initiated between these two groups and enhance their communication abilities. The Positing of Specific Communication Techniques The identification of two specific communication techniques that facilitate the initiation of communication about grief and loss for both the bereaved and non-bereaved surfaced with the serendipitous discovery of two enduring dimensions within bereavement communication. Across all interviews two enduring dimensions became prominent : 1) The overwhelming desire for outside initiation of communication; and 2) The need for an understanding that the experience communicated by the bereaved is a non negotiable topic These two dimensions remained stable across the variables 51

PAGE 61

Table 4.1 Table of Categories and Impacting Variables Private Interaction Impersona l Interaction Interpersonal Interaction Characteristics Nonfacetoface Face-to-face with no Face-to-face with solicited Private & reciprocal disclosure. reciprocal disclosure at Individualistic Usually formally discretion ofbereaved structured. Bereaved Bereaved will not initiate will not initiate. this category. T::pe of Death Not a major Bereaved tend to Initial reciprocal disclosure VI Variable reported influence. associate only with with others of similar N those with like experience. Time is a factor circumstances or within in initiating disclosure from highly structured forums others w/different experience for self-disclosure Length of Time Influences the Bereaved use this Influences the amount of Since Death amount of time forum to develop their reciprocal disclosure Variable spent in private, initial account of their solicited Bereaved need but not specific experience. Also time to develop own story method used. used when attempts first before engaging others to solicit reciprocal to tell their stories disclosure fail to produce desired results

PAGE 62

Table 4.1. (Cont.) Table of Categories and Imp_actine Variables Private Interaction Impersonal Interaction Interpersonal Interaction Type of Time/Distance: Time: Impacted the type Time: Impacted the type Relationship Not a major influence. of information disclosed of information disclosed & w/Deceased Expression of loss Short term relationships solicited Variable surpasses relationship evidenced more discussion Distance: Greater distances categories. on after death related issues impacted the availability of than life time events. other individuals with whom Distance: Greater geographical reciprocity was comfortable distances provided less VI information about funeral w preparations and subsequent cemetery visits. Relationships Family of Origin: Family of Origin: Family of Origin: of Individuals Unlikely to admit Unlikely to be Unlikely to be Involved in event involvement in this utilized. utilized. of Bereavement category Communication Immediate Family: Immediate Family: Immediate Family: Variable. Unlikely to admit May sometimes Very rare if utilized involvement in this be utilized at all category Friends/Co-workers: Friends/Co-workers: Friends/Co-workers: May admit involvement Most likely to be Most likely to be in this category utilized. utilized Strangers: Will hide Strangers: Will often Strangers: May sometimes involvement. be utilized be utilized

PAGE 63

impacting communication and the three categories of bereavement communication. Following a discussion on the two enduring dimensions of bereavement communication, the two specific communication techniques will be identified and their viability will be discussed in relation to the three categories ofbereavement communication. Desire for Outside Initiation All participants continually expressed a desire for outside initiation of conversation about their deceased loved one, or their experience in relation to the loss [DAC (139, 282, 350); JLS (355); MRF (578)]. ST (373) discussed his understanding about the difficulty for others to initiate, yet emphasized how meaningful the conversation was when outside initiation did occur. RMT (506) re-iterated the same sentiment. MRF (147, 556) addressed the disappointment when co-workers ceased to initiate conversation about her experience. JLS, MRF, MSK, and JT/ST expressed their gratitude for this researchers initiation of communication through a forum in which they could talk about their loss. The absence of visible signs of mourning was discussed with respect to "mourning signs" as non-verbal initiating cues that signal a bereavement status to others and could potentially facilitate initiation of conversation by outside 54

PAGE 64

sources [KLS (1318)]. JT & ST (635) reported ordering and receiving a pin they could wear that was made available to the parents of infants who died from SIDS, yet they only wore it a few times. The interviewers speculated that because the pin was representative of a type of"group membership", JT & ST were reluctant to identify their grief with a "group" when their grief was actually a private personal experience The possibility of some type of symbolic, non-verbal, artifact that simply represented the experience of "personal loss" [not one participant wanted a "mourning status" type of symbol] was discussed with each participant. Each one agreed that such a symbol may help outside sources to initiate the communication that was desired by everyone, yet a few were cautious about the potential for interaction with strangers Most participants expressed a desire to attain such a symbol. The Non-Negotiable Topic Most of the participants expressed discomfort when others tried to give an explanation for, or advice about the bereaved's personal experience. Above all, their hope was that the non-bereaved would recognize that when the bereaved take the risk to express their emotional experience, the narration is their experience and no one else can possibly know how to account for, or explain that experience [DAC (311); RMT (581, 628)]. Any negotiation 55

PAGE 65

becomes unforgivable because negotiation is perceived to invalidate the reliability of the bereaved's personal experience. MRF (147) added that when others tend to negotiate the experience as being "closed" or "over and finished", the perception is that the communication about the topic of loss is also closed and needs no further discussion. This point that conversation can be once and for all concluded, is also non negotiable because, as evidenced by the new information surfacing between IT & ST seven years after their loss, the topic of loss within conversation is never finished for the bereaved. This dimension of non-negotiation in communication is very difficult for the non-bereaved because the foundation of dialogue is dependent upon negotiation of the topic, negotiation of the meanings derived in conversation, and negotiation of conversational closure. Yet for the bereaved, in their expression of personal loss, negotiation becomes threatening and offensive. Two Techniques ofCommunication From the previously mentioned enduring dimensions ofbereavement communication, two techniques of interpersonal communication have been elucidated The first technique involves a non-verbal, artifactual representation of loss worn by the bereaved. The second technique involves the development 56

PAGE 66

of an "open forum" type of communication that allows for a non-negotiated narrative expression by the bereaved. NonVerbal Artifact. An artifact the experience of loss can be worn by the bereaved and serve to signal the non-bereaved of the appropriateness of initiating conversation about the loss [RMT (370, 561)]. Such a simple non-verbal signal can achieve the bereaved's desired result of outside initiation and at the same time relieve the stress associated with the non-bereaved in their desire to be appropriate in bringing up the topic ofloss. The bereaved maintain control of the sharing of their private experience by their choice in deciding where and when to wear the artifact. This symbol also affords bereaved and non-bereaved individuals the opportunity to recognize and acknowledge each other when they may have otherwise been naive to the other's situation of loss. Subsequently, this artifact can break down the barriers of initiation that create discomfort for both the bereaved and non bereaved. When considering the artifact within the categories ofbereavement communication employed by the bereaved, this artifact, intended to initiate communication, achieves the requirements needed to meet each category's communication goal. In the category ofPrivate Interaction, when the symbol is not worn, the bereaved can maintain their private emotional interaction 57

PAGE 67

When the symbol is worn, individuals may know that they can initiate communication about the loss with the bereaved by writing personal letters or initiating a personal phone call if time is not available in the face-to-face contact. In the category of Impersonal Interaction, the artifact can serve to initiate conversation about the loss to the extent of time limitations. The bereaved can choose to maintain the conversation within the impersonal category or move the communication into the interpersonal category; either way communication has been initiated into either category and both individuals can feel at ease with the initiating of conversation. Forum For Narration This interpersonal technique is not a commonly used technique in everyday interactions. However, for interaction with the bereaved it is potentially the most needed in social situations. The initiation of an exploratory documentation, as was the case in this research, seemed to facilitate the narrative forum needed by the bereaved. Very little questioning was done by the interviewers after the topic of loss was initiated; the bereaved systematically moved forward with the narration of their experience This type of narration forum can be used for individuals preferring the Private Interaction category of communicati9n. With very little recommendation, individuals involved in this study that preferred a non-face-58

PAGE 68

to-face interaction, or were unable to meet with the interviewers due to time constraints, recorded their narrative story on tape and subsequently reported that it was a rewarding experience in just talking about their loss, even in private. For the communication category of Impersonal Interaction, this narrative forum is precisely what is called for to achieve expression of personal loss. The narrative forum is a non-judgmental, non-participatory forum in which the primary concern is the bereaved individual's expressive narration. This type of forum is most commonly found in structured settings of large groups, however this type of forum works just as efficiently in one-on-one situations The main drawback is that the non-bereaved need to initiate the narrative forum for the bereaved. When the narration forum is initiated, the bereaved can choose to maintain communication in the Impersonal Interaction category or move into the Interpersonal Interaction category by asking for reciprocal disclosure; as was the case in several of the interviews in this study. At that point, the individual asked to give reciprocal disclosure can choose to maintain the Impersonal Interaction, or choose to move into an Interpersonal Interaction. In this situation however, the key point is that the offer to move into Interpersonal Interaction must come from the bereaved individual who's 59

PAGE 69

narration is the focus of the forum; otherwise the attempt by the non-bereaved to disclose is not acknowledged or discussed as a part of the narration Therefore anyone initiating a narration forum for a bereaved individual must be content to not self-disclose unless solicited by the bereaved. This reflects the dimension of non-negotiation If the narration forum does move into the Interpersonal Interaction category, the dimension of the non-negotiable personal topic still applies; but a sharing of personal experiences is accepted A summary of the communication techniques and their impact on the categories of communication behavior can be found in Table 4.2 on the following page. The results suggest that the combination of the two techniques will have a significant positive impact on all three of the categories of communication behavior; the techniques become interdependent. Conclusion ofResults In conclusion, the result of this research identifies three major categories ofbereavement communication : Private Interaction, Impersonal Interaction, and Interpersonal Interaction. Within these categories, individuals implement diverse methods to achieve communication However, the diversity of methods is not the primary concern. The primary concern is the individual's ability to access each of the three categories Especially in the categories of 60

PAGE 70

Table 4.2 Table of Categories and Posited Communication Techniques Private Interaction Impersonal Interaction Interpei"sonal Interaction Artifactual Allows bereaved to Allows for initiation by After initiation is achieved, Reuresentation make a private/personal others in order to open the bereaved can then choose of Loss. statement about their communication about to move into this realm of loss. They can have a the bereaved's loss. communication. private interpretation ofthe artifact's meaning and can choose 0'1 when and where to wear ....... the artifact. Forum for When given the chance Planned and structured This category is initiated by Narration. to conduct their interview forums are most often the bereaved and is developed in private, the bereaved professional settings where from and within the more found the experience to be bereaved individuals can formally structured forum. a type of narrative forum. express their story without The bereaved initiate this This allowed them to fear of judgment and no risk category from the forum, maintain their face-to-face of relationship involvement. but do not initiate the forum privacy and at the same The forum is initiated by an itself In this category, the time allowed them a organization or individual bereaved risk personal chance to express their with the express intent of involvement with their experience and formulate listening. participant. The participant their unique story. risks equal involvement.

PAGE 71

Impersonal Interaction and Interpersonal Interaction, the ability to initiate or receive outside initiation becomes critical. Four variables were identified that influence the bereavement communication that occurs within each category: type of death, length of time since death, type of relationship with the deceased, and the relationship of individuals involved in bereavement communication. Of these four variables, the type of relationship between the individuals involved in bereavement communication was found to have the most impact on all three of the categories of bereavement communication The bereaved were most likely to confide in friends/co-workers about their participation in Private Interaction. This confiding occurred in the category of either Impersonal Interaction or Interpersonal Interaction. The families of origin and immediate families of the bereaved were often times the last ones to know, if at all, about the bereaved's Private Interactions. Secondly, the type of death had an impact on the amount and type of disclosure the participants reported within each category and also impacted the bereaved's choice of communication category that was utilized. The social stigma surrounding the type of death played a major role in the bereaved's perception of sanctioned open communication about the death in any category. Even in the case of elderly death, the social construct of"expected" death 62

PAGE 72

made lengthy communication about the bereaved's loss less acceptable. A child's unexpected death appears to be socially constructed as a more tragic loss and communication about that loss carries a social sanction; unless the death is clouded in "mystery" and the social stigma again overrides the bereaved's ability to communicate about their loss. Thirdly, the only impact the length oftime since death had on the communication categories was the amount of time the bereaved had spent communicating within those categories. For the more recently bereaved the frequency of time within the categories was more often than for others Yet, for those bereaved whose loss was experienced over a longer period of time, their participation in each category appeared to be more "experienced" but also occurred with less frequency over the years. However, this researcher observed that those bereaved individuals with longer periods of time since their loss would prefer more frequency in communication about their loss Perhaps the social stigma of"appropriate grieving time" plays a role in the frequency of bereavement communication that is socially sanctioned. The last variable, the type of relationship with the deceased in reference to the longevity of the relationship and geographic distance of the relationship, had some impact on the type of information disclosed in communication. No impact was found in regards to which bereavement category was implemented 63

PAGE 73

or utilized the most by the bereaved. In all cases in this study, regardless of the longevity of the relationship or the geographic distance, the participants had a story to tell about their loss which was non-negotiable and they all reported a desire for someone to initiate the telling of their story After considering the categories of bereavement communication behavior and the variables impacting that communication, two enduring dimensions of bereavement communication were identified : the desire for outside initiation of communication and the non-negotiable aspect of bereavement communication These two dimensions crossed all category and variable boundaries Yet even though these two dimensions were enduring, no participant had any idea that any of the other participants had the same desires about these dimensions. From these considerations of bereavement communication behavior categories, the variables impacting them, and the enduring dimensions of bereavement communication, two interpersonal communication techniques that could enhance bereavement communication across all of the considerations were identified: a symbolic artifact ofloss and a narrative forum. These two communication techniques have the potential to facilitate bereavement communication within the three categories, regardless of the four impacting variables and with parallel concern for the enduring dimensions of 64

PAGE 74

bereavement communication When used together, these two techniques become interdependent. That is the initiation of communication via the artifact allows for the probability of an "open forum" discussion to develop, and in order for the "open forum" to be developed, some type of initiation must occur. In conclusion, to enhance triangulation and reliability of these findings, a statement of participant agreement about the interpretation of their individual interviews can be found in Appendix D. Each participant was given a copy of this "Results" section, with only their referenced initials legible, and asked to read it and determine if the interviewers gave an accurate account and interpretation of their interviews. If they were in agreement, they were asked to initial the participant agreement page. All participants have initialed that page. 65

PAGE 75

CHAPTERS DISCUSSION The ethnography of communication methodology implemented in this research provided guidelines for the necessary ingredients in qualitative communication research in order to achieve reliable results The three necessary ingredients are: The identification of a specific speech community to be observed, a description of the communication patterns within that community, and the analysis of how this speech community interacts with other cultural systems. The following discussion will address each of those ingredients with regards to their implementation within this research Then a critique and discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of this research will be addressed In conclusion, the implications for future research will be posited. The Speech Community The speech community chosen for the purpose of this study was the community of individuals who had lost a parent, child, sibling, or spouse through death, and were therefore termed bereaved. In order to establish a framework within that speech community, the length ofbereavement was arbitrarily chosen to be not more than twelve years and not less than three 66

PAGE 76

months The ethnic boundary of having all Caucasian participants was also chosen to avoid any potential for "outsider" cultural bias and ultimately enhance the reliability of participant-observation No gender, economic, educational or religious boundaries were imposed. The "communication event" under observation within this speech community was the event of initiating conversation about the bereaved's experience ofloss with other individuals classified as non-bereaved per the operational definition located in Chapter One. Communication Patterns Three main communication patterns within this speech community were identified and labeled by this researcher : Private Interaction, Impersonal Interaction, and Interpersonal Interaction. These patterns are mutually exclusive and exist simultaneously Regardless ofthe length of time since their loved one's death, all participants moved freely between the three patterns Therefore, no single pattern can be ranked as the initial or final pattern of bereavement communication. Four variables were identified that had some impact on the bereaved's choice of the communication pattern desired, yet no single pattern was completely eliminated as a choice However, the variables did determine the methods used within the pattern of choice 67

PAGE 77

Private Interaction Private Interaction involves non-face-to-face interaction in the expression of private emotions The participants reported using a multitude of diverse methods to achieve this pattern of communication In all instances, the participants continue to maintain a private interaction with their emotions Private Interaction is hidden from those closest to the bereaved and this may be partially due to the social constraints ofthe "appropriate amount oftime" allowed for the expression of emotional pain due to loss Even so, participants reported that they told their friends/co-workers about their experience in this pattern of communication, but rarely, if at all, did they disclose their Private Interaction experience with their family. Impersonal Interaction The Impersonal Interaction pattern involves verbal communication, usually face-to-face, and without expectation or desire for reciprocal disclosure In this pattern, the bereaved simply use the interaction to express their story about their loss. Usually this pattern takes place in a more formally structured situation in which the bereaved maintain control of their disclosure event. The situation is initiated by an outside source and the bereaved choose to either accept or refuse the invitation. 68

PAGE 78

Interpersonal Interaction The Interpersonal Interaction pattern also involves verbal communication, usually face-to-face, and reciprocal disclosure is solicited and desired. This pattern appears to have no situational boundaries and may be quite spontaneous. In this pattern, the bereaved seek to establish relationship re-connections There is a willingness to share experiences and not just express their personal experience. For the bereaved, this pattern involves the risk of re-establishing a close relationship that may lead to another experience of emotional pain due to loss. The bereaved's partner in this communication event also shares the same risk. This pattern is initiated by the bereaved within the already initiated pattern of Impersonal Interaction Yet when Interpersonal Interaction is initiated, it takes a completely different direction than the Impersonal Interaction pattern. Once initiated between two individuals, this pattern is no longer dependent upon the initiation of the Impersonal Interaction pattern Interaction with Other Cultural Systems With regards to how this speech community interacts with the culture at large, two main difficulties were identified. The first difficulty is the reluctance of the bereaved to initiate communication about their loss with 69

PAGE 79

those outside and often within, their immediate circle of bereaved family This reluctance to initiate leaves the bereaved in an isolated social condition and at the same time the bereaved desire outside initiation by almost anyone However, a possible paradox develops when initiation does occur This paradox is the second communication difficulty experienced by this speech community and the culture at large. Once communication is initiated about the bereaved's experience of loss, the bereaved desire to only tell their story and not negotiate that story through dialogue In the daily conversational norms of this American culture communication is continually negotiated via dialogue However, in the speech community of the bereaved communication negotiation is not tolerated Any attempt to negotiate the bereaved's experience of their loss is perceived as confronting and invalidating. Subsequently communication ceases and the bereaved return to their communication isolation. Therefore, any individual unfamiliar with the speech community of the bereaved, can successfully communicate with individuals in that community by recognizing that the bereaved's desire for outside initiation is compounded by their desire for non-negotiation communication about their personal experience or private emotions. Overcoming these two communication difficulties not only decreases the bereaved's experience of 70

PAGE 80

isolation, it facilitates the re-socialization process for both the bereaved and non-bereaved Critique The findings resulting from this research should not be generalized across the entire population ofbereaved individuals and their family/friends. There will be individual differences concerning willingness to share personal stories that are emotionally painful. These differences may be partially due to cultural norms about expressing grief, yet whatever those differences are, they should be respected and accepted. Ultimately, this research in no way suggests a final decisive communication answer for all bereaved individuals or their family/friends; it does however put forth an alternative proposition that can be implemented if both parties are willing Strengths The conclusions arising from this research are more positive and overwhelming than initially expected Due to the emotionally sensitive issue of discussing the pain associated with the death of a loved one, this researcher expected a least some resistance and/or reluctance from potential participants. Quite the opposite occurred. Individuals were quite anxious to participate, and 71

PAGE 81

once the word was spread that this research was being conducted, many individuals approached this researcher and asked to be included in the interview process. Even after all the interviews were concluded, this researcher is still being approached by individuals who would like to discuss the losses they have experienced in their life The original eight participants continue to report their pleasure with the experience and suggest other individuals they would like to have interviewed so that those others can also experience the pleasure associated with being able to talk openly about their emotional pain of loss. There was some initial concern that prolonged discussion about death might lead to feelings of depression and a sense of morbidity. Again, quite the opposite occurred. Participants reported feeling released from a heavy burden along with a strong sense of emotional relief and renewal. The discussions did not become morbid or depressing In fact they were more like insightful reflections about the deceased, woven with love, humor, and understanding; incredible stories about incredible people The final result of this research turned out to be more than the original intent; to discover comfortable ways for the bereaved and non-bereaved to initiate communication about the loss. This research not only initiated that communication, but also became a forum which facilitated a re-socialization 72

PAGE 82

between the participants and this researcher. The relationship between each participant and the interviewers has expanded and grown deeper. The personal interview method implemented in this research also allowed for the discovery of information that was beyond the scope of any questions this researcher had prepared. The advance delivery of the questions to the participants gave them time to reflect and organize their thoughts. However, much of the information gained in this project was not a result of the questions, but rather a result of additional information provided by the participants in their narration In conclusion, the implications of this research suggest a method of communication in which relationships between the bereaved and their family/friends can be enhanced and developed rather than distanced by private emotional experiences The bereaved hope for the initiation of communication due to their overwhelming desire to tell someone their story; all the non bereaved need to do is initiate, and then listen without judgment, to the story. However, this method ofbereavement communication requires personal commitment and responsibility towards the relationship on the part of both the bereaved and non-bereaved; it is not an incidental method of communication and should not be considered without forethought concerning any ethical consequences of initiating an emotionally intimate relationship. 73

PAGE 83

Weaknesses As descriptive research, this project does not offer any quantitative empirical findings. This research does provide qualitative, general guidelines about the communication processes ofbereaved individuals. The reported implications of those processes cannot be generalized beyond the eight individuals that participated in this project. The number of participants in this project was very limited due to the length of the interviews and the depth of information. To have conducted the interviews by using a survey would have decreased the time and ultimately the depth of information, but would have increased the population sample. Yet the intent ofthis project, to discuss the bereaved's experience ofloss and subsequent communication difficulties about that loss with others, would have been compromised in a survey methodology One observed difficulty stemming from this research was for the interviewers. Even though the participants reported unanticipated feelings of positive emotional release and fulfillment following their interview, the interviewers reported an initial feeling of emotional exhaustion. The interviewers speculated that this was due in part to their attempt to maintain a reasonable time frame for each interview; two to three hours. This time frame allowed only enough time for the participant's story and therefore the 74

PAGE 84

interviewers did not share their personal stories within the interviews and consequently felt emotionally overwhelmed Secondly, the interviewer's empathy towards each participant's emotionally tearful responses led to further emotional sensations Implications for Future Research It is this researchers opinion that further research in this area is imperative In the American society, communication about pain of emotional loss has beeri severely restricted to appropriate, socially acceptable time constraints Yet the desire for participation in this project by so many individuals suggests that there is a strong need and willingness to communicate about that pain from the beginning of the experience and for many years following the initial experience Initially, further research into the cultural aspects impacting the expression of difficult emotions would be beneficial in elucidating any current cultural barriers to grief communication Perhaps cultural research could also provide insight into how those barriers can be altered or removed completely. Further, the comparison of similar studies completed in different ethnic cultures would enhance the understanding of any potential ethnic similarities or differences 75

PAGE 85

Secondly, research implementing specific bereavement communication strategies would be beneficial in the determination of"before" and "after" consequences of those specific strategies For example the development of a symbolic artifact representing loss could be used with some bereaved individuals to determine if the initiating aspect of the artifact is helpful in facilitating bereavement communication in comparison to their experience prior to receiving the artifact. For the purpose of future research this ethnographer proposes that the symbolic artifact be non-gender specific in the form of a lapel pin that can be worn at the discretion of the bereaved. It should not represent a status of "mourning", but rather a representation of loss that surpasses any religious connotation This researcher proposes that the symbolic representation of a wintering tree would best meet the need of this type of artifact The wintering tree represents the loss of previous seasons and at the same time represents the hope of a returning growth in spring, wherein the bereaved continue to grow and be nourished from their loss. This researcher submits that this artifact can be labeled a Tapestry Pin" further suggesting the intricately woven pattern of another individuals life into the life of the bereaved In conclusion, the study of emotional expression by communication scholars could only enhance the information concerning death and dying 76

PAGE 86

already presented by the fields of psychology, anthropology, and sociology. Communication is foundational to the human experience, and death is an always present phenomena of the human experience; individuals should be able to communicate about all of their life experiences Further research in this area of bereavement interaction can only help to elucidate and facilitate the changes in the communication process that are needed to welcome and sanction emotional expression 77

PAGE 87

APPENDIX A Informed Consent Form Teri Werner is a graduate student in the Communication Department at the University of Colorado Denver. Teri is conducting research about theresocialization process of the bereaved via interpersonal communication techniques for her Masters thesis. The purpose of her research is to examine the communication process between members of a family who have experienced the death of a loved one and their friends/co-workers, and to elucidate the conditions necessary for rebuilding or re-structuring a conversational system about the death of a loved one that is both comfortable and productive for the bereaved and their friends/cq-workers. Each individual consenting to participate in this research agrees to a tape recorded, one-on-one interview, approximately 2 hours in length, with Teri about their experience as a bereaved family member and subsequent experience in communicating with friends/co-workers about their loss All participants will remain anonymous along with the names of the deceased in that only first names will be used. Due to the nature of the emotional topic, participants may experience some discomfort in relating their experience and 78

PAGE 88

are free to withdraw from the interview at any time with no obligation to continue at any future time and without prejudice, ramification, or liability. The participants will receive no remuneration for their participation in this research. Teri will be willing to answer any questions the participant may have in regards to the research; including both during the research and after the research is completed. Any questions concerning the participants rights as a subject may be directed to: Office of Sponsored Programs, CU-Denver, Campus Box 123, PO Box 173364, Denver, CO 80217-3364, telephone 5562770. In signing this consent form, I, ____________ agree that I have read the above information, the research has been thoroughly explained to me, and I understand the nature of the research in which I am consenting to participate. I also acknowledge that I will not receive any remuneration for my participation and I am free to withdraw from this research at any time. SIGNED: --------------------DATE: _______ 79 \

PAGE 89

APPENDIXB Questions For The Interview Due to the unique circumstances and individual differences involved in this situation, not all the questions may be used for every interview The questions will simply be a guide for the researcher in order to initiate the interviews 1) Please tell me the story of your loss 2) Outside of your immediate family, who was the greatest source of support to you? Why? 3) How did you communicate your loss to individuals who were unaware? 4) How did individuals communicate their sympathies to you? 5) Which was the most/least helpful to you? 6) Do you discuss the death of your loved one with friends/co-workers today? 7) Describe any discomfort you currently experience in discussing the death of your loved one to others? Why/Why not? 8) What is your sense about friends/co-workers willingness to express their thoughts to you about your loss? 9) How would you -[or would you ]-like others to approach you about your loss? 80

PAGE 90

10) Outside ofyour immediate family, do you most often share the "facts", your "emotions", both, or neither? 11) What would be your advice to others about the difficulty in communicating to individuals experiencing grief? 12) Can you generalize that one form of communication was more helpful than any other [e g letters, cards, telephone calls, house calls etc ]? Why? 13) How has the story you told me at the beginning changed over time since the death of your loved one? 14) Do you believe, as a society, that we need some type of symbolic representation that alerts others to our state of bereavement? Why, Why not? 15) In reference to communication about the emotional pain of loss do you have any final suggestions or comments? 81

PAGE 91

APPENDIXC The Accounts DAC DATE RECEIVED: 3/12/96 cov7 Setting DAC answered the interview questions on tape privately, without the presence of any interviewers. She did her narration very early on Tuesday morning while her family was asleep. She delivered the tape to me in person the same day she recorded it Synopsis DAC spoke about the events of the day she learned her father had experienced a heart attack in January 1994. She continued on and discussed times she and her dad spent together. She was very emotional and had stopped the tape on several occasions 82

PAGE 92

DAC [54]I couldn't talk on the phone ... all I could do when I started talking was to start crying ... my husband made all the flight reservations and contacted others for me . .later, even when I would try and write a "Thank you" note .. and would put the pen in my hand I would just start to cry ... *** DAC [119]Dad wasn't there to see me graduate in May ... and I know that's going to be hurtful for you this May, to know that your dad's not going to be there and how proud of you he would have been *** DAC [122]-y ou know it's funny thinking back ... sometimes I think about afterwards ... after I got horne ... and maybe the times I would have liked to talk about it with my husband and his main comment is "I really miss him too" ... and maybe I discount that too much and I don't acknowledge some of his feelings ... *** 83

PAGE 93

DAC[139]I guess if there is one thing ... or anything we can do for somebody ... or that I would want done for me in this situation .. we need people to look ... to try and put themselves in our place ... and look at our lives ... the people who know us the best ... and say "I can do this for you" and don't ask. .. *** DAC [185]0n the other hand, I got a lot of hugs either through the mail or physical hugs from people I least expected it ... friends and acquaintances ... who had hugs and tears to share ... and that's a lot ... that people care about you ... *** DAC [193]I did not communicate my loss to people who already didn't know about it. Sometimes it happened unexpectedly when there was no choice. One time I was on my way to a group meeting and I heard a song on the radio and I ended up crying all the way to where I was going to meet my group members .. and with tears streaming down my 84

PAGE 94

face I had to explain ... they were pretty gracious .. sometimes maybe people who don't know something like that is going on in you life seem to be more caring ... *** DAC [214]I like being able to choose who I want to talk to about it and when I want to do that, I'm not sure I'd want it to be coming up from strangers .. from people I'm not willing to talk about that with .. .I wish there was a better way for this kind of news to be communicated to those people who are close to you and need to know .. those close to you who haven't found out about it tend to be very hurt that they don't know .. *** DAC [249]I do spend time talking about my dad's death and things that happen to us I think anytime you loose somebody close to you ... you have so much more empathy .. I think what helped the most, the cards and letters and people that were just around us ... what hurts is when friends you've known for a long time don t contact you .. *** 85

PAGE 95

DAC [282]Discussing this now . actually this isn't bad now that I've got it started, but yeah ... I'm uncomfortable ... changing my thoughts so I don't have to think about how uncomfortable I am ... *** DAC [311]I feel like I need some privacy ifl want to talk to my dad by myself. .if somebody close to me would just put their arms around me and let me cry and feel what I need to feel ... but you know it seems like part of what goes along with all this is trying not to make anybody else feel bad .. what do you think Teri? But we try not to cry when people come by .. when they call on the phone .. and I'm not sure why . I think what I wish most is for somebody to let me do that. .. *** DAC [330]Even though I say that's what I'd like, for someone to hold me and let me cry, I'd have a hard time doing that for someone else because that may not be what they want ... what have you found in all of this, do people want different things, some people don't want to be touched or held .... 86

PAGE 96

*** DAC [336]In my bible study we were talking about it one night about good friends and fathers dying . my friend said you know sometimes it feels like an ocean .. and sometimes when it first happens it's like wave after wave after wave . but pretty soon the waves get farther apart ... but every once in a while it hits you when you least expect it ... * DAC [350]I think that when you re trying to communicate with other people that are experiencing grief, just do it, write a card, go see them, do something so they don't have to ask ... that's really hard . you're going through so much to have to ask for things in your life ... for help ... that s so difficult .. .let me know if you need somebody to put their arms around you so you can cry it out too .. .love ya ... *** end cov 7 87

PAGE 97

JLS DATE: 3/12/96 cov6 Setting JLS asked to meet at a restaurant at sixo'clock on a Tuesday evening. We ordered dinner and ate prior to the interview. JLS's relationship with the interviewers was considered one of acquaintance, and is now considered more of a friendship Synopsis JLS spoke about her father's life and their relationship. She became very emotional when discussing the events surrounding his death. She concluded with how her extended family system has adjusted since their loss in June of 1993. Following the interview, JLS described the experience of the interview as "euphoric" JLS [209]We didn't take either of our kids to the hospital. . none of us took our kids, because before when he had the bypass, it kinda scared my kids with all the tubes and stuff ... it was ... and I just didn't think that 88

PAGE 98

they .... well I knew I couldn't help them ... and I knew I didn't want to ... I knew it was just better to do it this other way .. *** JLS[220]Sometimes when like I'm telFng the story its like it happened yesterday ... and it's like ... has it really been that long? You know 'cause you forget ... and you let yourself forget ... *** JLS [296]Most of my cousins, my dad's sisters kids are in Florida and Georgia, and they couldn't come to the services, but they called . so we talked to them on the phone ... you know that's what we say about funerals ... you know that's the only time the family gets together anymore ... and so it was spent in reminiscing ... it was really nice *** JLS [301]A lady I play tennis with, she was my tennis partner, and we're friends, but we're not really close or anything, but she and her husband and her son came to the services, and I thought that is really a nice thing to do something like that ... and they had never met my dad ... they just came 89

PAGE 99

as a support for me and I thought that was a really nice thing ... actually what is really nice with a house full of people .. .is that you don't have to do anything ... you don't have to worry about finding something to eat or picking up the kitchen ... *** JLS [319]After the service on Sunday, I told my husband ... I'm just going to stay with mom tonight ... everybody will be gone .. and we just sat there .. we just sat in the living room . and we just sat there. *** JLS [355]-t: Did you and your mom talk about what happened? J: You know I'm trying to think if we really talked about it ... not like rehashing, that kind ofthing ... I mean I think we just talked more about memories . more ofthat ... every time you tell the story again, it think it just gives you ... uhmm ... it helps you get out more ofthe pain ofthe loss ... I think ifpeople say "well tell me about it" ... you know . you want to tell people .. but like my friend Rose, I don't want to go up to her and say "well tell me about what happened with Sam" even though I know that is what I wanted .. I can't do that .. 90

PAGE 100

*** JLS [367]And you know you don't think it hurts because you don t think about it all the time, you know I'm sure you're going through ... with your dad ... you're so busy with school now, I mean how often do you think about it? . How is that, hearing your thoughts on these tapes? Does that help you to just hear your voice say ... It makes it real just hearing it .. *** JLS [413] t: I think you're right, I think one of the biggest helps is just telling it and having a place where you can ... J: And not being afraid ... if you re sitting around thinking about it so many times it doesn't have the same emotional impact as saying it out loud .. mean ifi think about it I don't cry . but ifl say ... I mean look how long it's been .. I feel it just as powerfully now as if it was yesterday .. *** JLS [524]-t: Do you talk to your brothers real openly about it? 91

PAGE 101

J: Not a lot ... Billy and I did a little bit ... and Bobby and I don't get to see each other often enough for us to get to really visit ... and its always with a funeral ... everybody else around ... I was so looking forward to this ... for my Uncle's funeral ... mom and Billy and I were going to go down ... and mom was going to stay and Billy and I were going to drive back together ... and I was really looking forward to 10 hours in the car with him ... unfortunately it didn't work out that way .. you really need a lot of time to have those kind of conversations . *** JLS [549]-t: So do you and your husband talk about your dad's death? J: He was extremely supportive about it. t: Do you still talk about it? J: You know not really ... a lot of it is ... we actually talk about his dad's death which was 11 years ago .. just because that was such a traumatic moment for him ... in fact it would have been a good thing to interview him just to get him to talk about it again ... *** 92

PAGE 102

JLS [833]-I see myself trying to protect my kids from something painful. .instead ofletting them feel it .. for example ... me not taking my kids to the hospital to see my dad ... in 1 0 years am I going say "Those kids should have been able to do that" ... *** end COY 6 93

PAGE 103

JT/ST DATE: 2/25/96 cov 1 Setting This interview was conducted on a Sunday at two o'clock in the afternoon. We sat at the kitchen table and had cookies, coffee, and soda JT & ST's relationship with the interviewers is considered one of acquaintances. Synopsis JT & ST spoke of their son's life very briefly at the beginning of the interview From that point on they spoke of the events surrounding the September evening in 1988 when they discovered the lifeless body oftheir son Justin in his crib, the ambulance arriving, the hospital wait while resuscitation was attempted, subsequent events of the funeral and their individual and joint re-adjustment to their life together and with their friends and extended family. Within the week following the interview, ST expressed his and IT's appreciation for being allowed to participate in this project. They felt as though a weight had been lifted because the topic is again open for further discussion ST explained that he was going to get in contact with a men's grief group so he could continue to explore his feelings. 94

PAGE 104

JT/ST [140]S: I think afterwards JT did a lot more soul searching than I did . after the death. I think women are just better at that you know, getting out their emotions than men are-Men are supposed to be strong ... J: I remember I felt really guilty like I was putting you into a lot of turmoil because I couldn't really deal with it I was real angry & not caring on the other hand & I was feeling guilty & feeling like I was supposed to be different than I was ... *** JT/ST [165]S: I think the scariest thing about Justin s death was not knowing why and not knowing about SIDS too much, I'd heard of it ... crib death ... but when you re in that situation you want to know all the information you can ... and it was really neat because the SIDS organization jumped right in and gave us all the information and sent information to our families ... they were really good support . I think it's really important when somebody dies ofsomething ... is getting information ... it helps you cope J: I began to read everything .... everything I could get a hold of from the first. 95

PAGE 105

*** JT/ST [239]t: So who ... did anyone ... help with all the funeral arrangements? J: That was hard too because we figured because we had all this family close by that we had this great support system, well ... Justin was their family too & they were in the midst of it. .. but because they weren't the parents .. .in fact I got involved in a victims advocate program because they really let me down . because we had such a large family they kind ofbacked out of it.. when there's not a lot offamily around they're a lot more helpful helping you to vocalize what you want or help you remember you have choices, I think that's the hardest thing is that...you didn't know there was choices and everybody that was in the family was all a wreck too but they don't know our family so they didn't know what our family normally looks like: .I remember ST carried the coffin all by himself and I was walking alone and I didn't know for years that he was going to the cemetery and I was like a wreck at home ... some people don't realize that you can have family all around you but they are a mess too *** 96

PAGE 106

JT/ST [323]-t: I can't imagine how difficult it would have been with acquaintances who knew you just had a baby and had seen you with a baby and all the sudden they baby's not with you anymore and so did they ask you where's the baby? J: That was kind of maddening cause that was emotionally driven it had to do with my mood or their phrase to the question ... just depended on the day I guess I was blunt and shocking ... guess I'm still that way .... and they don't know what to say .. .I think an evil part of me enjoys that sometimes I mean most of my anger went towards the doctor. .. But it's still hard when people ask how many kids I have ... you know ... .I had two, I have one and I'm expecting another. ... S: I remember when I went to the Justice Center to pick up Justins blanket, they took all his clothing and stuff, they had it in the evidence room, and they treated me like I had committed a crime or something and I said "My baby died and I just want his blanket" and I think they felt really bad, but I felt good because I shocked them ... J: You know I think everybody wants to ignore what's happenedthey are just so unsure about how to act, and corning out and being very blunt is a way to open it up .. .ifthey care ... even though you were 97

PAGE 107

blunt.. they will ask you about it and if they are uncomfortable they won't want to hear it. S: we had some mends in Utah and we went to visit them pretty soon after Justin died, maybe 6 months after, and we got there and they didn't say anything about it .. and so we brought it up and they said "We told our kids not to mention it because we didn't want to make you guys feel bad" ... and I said "It's on our minds all the time, bringing it up isn't gonna remind us about it . like we are going to forget?" *** JT/ST [373]S: We did have one couple come by and later they said it was really hard for them to come by, but it meant a lot to us that they came by and they brought food J: It was like after the crowd was gone, it was so touching they weren't even necessarily people super close with us, but just.. .we knew them ... they didn't have kids, didn't want kids ... S: I know they didn t want to come over. .. J: It was a terrifying thing for them ... and I don't even remember what we talked about it was just that they showed up after everyone else was gone It was also helpful to get cards and notes later, like on the 98

PAGE 108

anniversary dates and we've gotten cards from other SIDS parents we don't even know ... *** JT/ST [451]-J: I called the counselors at SIDS and would be on the phone with them unloading for over an hour. .. even up to just a couple of years ago I relied pretty heavily on them . .. I think with family it was a little harder for me .. .I tried to, but I don't know, I just wasn't sure, I remember my grandmother & my uncle getting on my case ... remember? I was having a hard time crying and stuff and she got real angry and my uncle jumped on my case and that was really weird and I was already unsure, I felt kinda guilty ... I know my mom can't fix it and I don't want to overload her -I think I had a lot of that going on and I felt like that kinda catapulted me into growing up ... we used to have a lot of problems with family being so close and I would drop everything and go runnmg ... *** JT/ST [521]-J: We let teachers know every year with our oldest son ... every year ... and this year is the first we didn't ... and the first time he 99

PAGE 109

brought it up in school. Every year we've been real religious to let teachers know just in case he gets moody .. .. *** JT/ST [535]-t: This was so close to you at the very same time, how did you manage your relationship? S: I think we got closer. realized that we could get through this and help each other ... we cried together ... and I knew if we could get through this we could handle anything ... J: I got real depressed S: And then after a while I think we started to drift apart J: Yeah ... it was hard for me to realize that there were different ways to process the same thing and we both need to really different. I didn't know he was going to the cemetery everyday and I didn't think he was doing anything and felt like I was really losing it ... and he's so in control. .. what's wrong with me? .. .. S: Yeah I guess I never realized that I wasn't communicating that to her like I should be. I guess I was just dealing with it in my own way and she was dealing with it in her own way ... I can't remember but we must have been kinda having problems because then we joined this 100

PAGE 110

church for about 3 years that kinda gave us something we needed on a spiritual level and I think our relationship got better again? *** JT/ST [570]-J: I think with me working ... once the chemical depression thing came in and working through the depression ... discussion about stuff couldn't really change anything ... I wish I would have known you were there, I wish we would have known we could have someone else carry the casket ... but just talking about it. .I felt so guilty ... S: Yeah we had a problem with guilt.. I can't remember when you were really depressed when was that? ... Before we joined the church? I guess it was kind of subtle ... J: I had been going to counseling ... everything they said . here try this ... I was like .. .I don't know where ... you just need to keep busy .. you just need to slow down *** JT/ST [598]In reference to joining the church S: What were we so hungry for? J: I just think we needed direction from anyone that was willing to give it ... and family I think was kind of tentative and we were both so 101

PAGE 111

lost and for what to do .. .I know I have a lot of doubts as a parent but I don't know what I'm doing obviously, I had a son die, I lost all my confidence . S: Yeah and the church was really authoritarian so it tells you what to do and when to do it .. J: I felt so aimless and someone saying OK here's where your screwing up here s what you need to do this will make everything all right and for a while that was really comforting ... then we got back some confidence ... *** JT/ST [635] J: The SIDS pin was a pair of booties ... d: Did you wear the pin? J: Only a couple of times, then I put it on a little Christmas stocking ... S: I guess maybe if you go to a SIDS thing you would wear it.. *** end cov 1 102

PAGE 112

KLS DATE: 3/4/96 COY 3 Setting Initially, KLS' s wife approached me about his desire to participate in this study KLS' s interview took place in his home at ten o'clock on a Monday morning We sat in the living room and talked KLS's relationship with the interviewers is considered one offriendship. Synopsis KLS spoke of the events surrounding his brothers death in February of 1985 due to complications resulting from AIDS. KLS talked about family relationships, missed opportunities to visit his brother Frank, and memories of their shared experiences. KLS became very emotional on several occasions, and the tape was turned off until he regained composure. KLS [8]This is where I don't know where you want me to start talking, I can talk for twenty hours, and I don't want to ramble, I want to talk about what you need to know, where do you want me to begin? 103

PAGE 113

t: Well, lets just talk about what happened, what your experience of that was. K: I don't know where to begin d: What happened? K: He died of cancer .. in a hospital in San Jose California ...... uhmm, we had a gathering in Reno at Thanksgiving .... this is going to be a lot tougher than I thought ... *** KLS [63]The first time I found out, I came home and my dad said that Frank wasn't feeling too good and they went to San Jose, and my dad came back the next day, I just happened to be home when he pulled up and he said "Frank's got cancer" ... ... . because I'd never experienced that before, it was like no big deal, well you know your brothers in the prime ofhis life, he's 36 years old, the miracle of health, he's been weightlifting all his life, so you know, nothing can ever happen, but a couple of days later he took a serious tum. *** 104

PAGE 114

KLS [83]So I drove to San Jose, and I remember seeing him in the hospital, they didn t want to let me in ....... .I remember one of the questions he asked me that night, he said Am I going to die?' and I said well . you're too young. *** KLS [108]Christmas was approaching which was a real bummer for everybody, because nobody wanted to talk about it. .. .. Christmas came and went with no tree, no lights and no presents. Because the cancer was so rare they didn't really know what to do about it. *** KLS [157]This is tough, it's tough .. then February rolled in ... its kind of ironic, and I thought about this over the years, I went with a friend of mine on Saturday February 2nd to a basketball game, when we got home that night Jim [a brother] called .. and Frank had died ...... put a hold on that. [Tape was stopped for about 5 min while KLS left the room, then he returned] uhmm, it was real strange to hear that ... . * 105

PAGE 115

KLS [298]Because you block out things during that time, you don t really remember and ... I wasn't around the week after Frank died ... I just disappeared for a while and the next time I saw my family was at the funeral services .. stop the recorder for a minute ... [KLS discussed his use of drugs and alcohol during that time] * KLS [327]At the service there were lots of pictures, and that was kind of neat to start getting it out and be able to talk about him, not as just some "body", some brick laying in the street or whatever, but gosh, he had all these friends and he touched all their lives. *** KLS [337]Frank started to make changes in the last two years of his life, part of the dark side of my family that even if it was something that they knew, they didn t share it with the rest of us which to this day still ticks off members of the family when things are brought up about it eleven years later. *** 106

PAGE 116

KLS [430]Toward the end ofFranks life, I was at the hospital less and less time because after two months with family there was friction, there were a couple of incidences of me coming in at eight o'clock in the morning with a beer in my hand and the whole family sitting there going ..... and it was like, I'm living, and what can I do?, and that's how I was dealing with it, and nobody was dealing with me . we were all dealing with something else, and is was all kinda, .... the same thing with Franks other life, it was put on the back burner, ... *** KLS [439]Even with my wife, for the first four years we knew each other, and finally she says "tell me about Frank ... the fact that he's dead ... cause that's all your family ever says is that he's dead .. no one ever says that he was a good guy", and that took. .. gosh 7 to 8 years ofFrank being dead before people started talking about it. *** KLS [447]-In reference to the location ofFrank's ashes There have been times in the last eleven years when I want to go and see the plaque in the ground somewhere you want to say "Hi Frank, I 107

PAGE 117

love you", and there's no, .... I don't even know what state we're talking about ... I don't even know if ... t: Do you ever ask your mom or dad? K: Nobody knows, nobody will talk about it to this day ... nobody wants to talk about it. .. but that's also ofbecause who Frank was before ... and who he was when he died, two different people. *** KLS [ 544 ]In reference to family interaction at the funeral. And because we had known for the last couple of years that Frank was gay .. .it was kinda talked about a little bit by the family ... not really talked about. ... but not as hush hush .... *** KLS [615]0ur family ... uhmm, we never learned how to be supportive of one another to really get down to the brass tacks of saying ... .I'm hurting, ... I need some help, I learned that after Frank died .... we couldn't be open and say "does it really matter that Frank's gay or are we going to love this guy anyway" *** 108

PAGE 118

KLS [626]I remember this kind of"lets divide up the goodies" and get out .. and that way we won't have to talk about it. On the way to LA we were just driving and we were all kinda cramped in this little car, and then Jim takes an exit off in the middle of the desert and just pulls over gets out of the car just sobbing, and at that moment it just hit us ...... .I remember we all got out of the car the five of us, and we all walked in five different directions and we were all crying *** KLS [670]-In reference to being at home again. You invite a bunch of people over so you don't have to think about it, or Jack Daniels ... so you don't have to think about reality . .. .I was drinking a lot in those days .... .I think a lot of the drinking helped me forget. *** KLS [692]Sometimes, because I happen to be too honest at times, one of the toughest things to come up with was when they [friends] asked when he died or why, and I wanted to say, depending on who it was, I wanted to say pneumonia, or going into the fact that he used to be gay, 109

PAGE 119

and then that opens up and then means you've got to get more personal and then more emotions are going to come out. *** KLS [709]Emotionally as a man, you don't want to start crying when you mention your brothers name ... with certain people it's OK, but with others it's not .. when you bring it up, all these other memories start coming back that you are already trying to suppress .. *** KLS [770]Because of the non acceptance of the gay issues, and because of the .. .. no communication betWeen my mom and dad the subject always got pushed away, even when my wife started meeting my family .. . *** KLS [808]Even now people will ask me 'what kind of family do you come from' and depending on who they are, I will answer "I've got this many brothers and a sister, and I have another brother and he died at the age of36" and depending, some of them sincerely want to know how it is and others just want to go "gosh, that's not a happy thought", lets get 110

PAGE 120

back to the Dodger's game, or something you know ... "what's for dinner" you know lets not talk about this, ... well most people just want to hear "fine". *** KLS [822]In reference to returning home after the funeral. I wasn't anxious to go back home, at the same time I wanted to get it over, but I didn't want to forget. If you don't do a little talking about it and get some of it out then it really lingers and when you are approached with it again, it can overwhelm you. The family has never had the open conversation about it *** KLS [1041]The family still can't sit down and say "lets talk about Frank", I'd be stunned if everybody said "OK", you know like, "you're favorite memory ofFrank for five minutes" *** KLS [1062]I don't know how anybody else has dealt with losing Frank, I don't know ... .I've been thinking for quite a while about writing a letter and maybe seeing if we could have a reunion at the end of August .. ... I'd 111

PAGE 121

like to have my whole family ... as crummy as we get along together. . .I'd like to have one more shot .. .I'd hate to think that I'm not ever going to see my whole family again together. ... *** KLS [1136]Maybe my best group ... to talk to about it . and if I sit down .... and because I think of because of the amount of drugs I did I forget ... even when I was sober ..... but I know now when I'm thinking, the AA group I talked a lot about Frank, you can't get as personal. .. you don't get the rebound you might want but you can get it out ... you can cry in front of them ... there was not any one individual .. with AA they offer you a chance to talk .. I don't remember the conversations, just the chance to talk. I talked almost every single meeting. Now I'm remembering more people and most of them were from AA . I think that has helped and would be a good type of format for the family ... no repercussions ... we've never had that, a new concept for my family *** KLS [1217]I think now, and I really don't believe I've thought about this that probably AA was a really good way ... uhmm, of talking about Frank 112

PAGE 122

*** KLS [1318]-In reference to symbols of mourning. I would wear it to honor him, ... it would be one way of allowing people to express something without calling up a meeting ... t: Right, and in your circumstance, ... what would happen if you got together with your family and you wore the symbol, and they had theirs on too, wouldn't it be like a release that even if the conversation doesn't happen .. .just that you know that they value him as much as you do and that they remember him .... because now you're not even sure if they consciously think about him .. .. you don't even know that much, but if you know you have at least that much in common ... K: I think that could be the start of a lot of mending .... *** end cov 3 113

PAGE 123

MRF DATE : 3/1/96 cov2 Setting MRF asked to meet in a restaurant on a Friday at four o'clock in the afternoon. After ordering wine and eating dinner, the discussion began at 5:30. There was a sense of initial discomfort, but once under way, everyone relaxed MRF's relationship with the interviewers was initially considered one of acquaintance, and now is considered a friendship. Synopsis MRF began with facts about her brother's life and subsequent death in August of 1995. She then began to speak emotionally about Dan and their close relationship MRF discussed the religious division within her extended family that existed prior to Dan's death, and became magnified at the time of his death. MRF [60] My last time with him before he died was the Saturday before he died, he died on a Wednesday .. on Monday there was a phone call from mom that he was on morphine and he was in a lot of pain .... that day 114

PAGE 124

my husband came and Dan wouldn't respond to me, and my husband said to him "Hey Dan" and he opened his eyes, it was late in the evening, and my husband said "Let's go shoot some hoops" and Dan smiled and I never saw him react again after that .... uhmm and dealing with outsiders, a lot of my experience with outsiders .. was with his church at first. I guess you could call them his family but it wasn't my family ... *** MRF [104] He was very involved in his church, and a lot of these people came into his house and were very insensitive and rude people, I think, they didn't care about the fact that I had lost a brother or my mom had lost a son, or. .. uhmm ... if we weren't of their faith, they didn't acknowledge us. That has been a struggle for me, I think it still is a struggle for me ... cause I can't understand how they can think that they are better or that I'm not worth of any sort of comfort from them ... and the day of the funeral our family was very isolated ... I'll never forget being at the church and the church was packed and the minister preached at us for two hours about getting saved and all of this and our family was in the front two rows and they [the church members] were all up cheering and 115

PAGE 125

celebrating the fact that my brother was dead [disbelief] and it was celebrated, this was a celebration .. that was sad .. this was a person that I really loved through all of our life ... gone you know? So I struggled with that a lot and uhmm .. *** MRF [139] And then uhmm .. there were troubles with that with family members too ... because some of them are "born agains" and some aren't and so it was like we were all separated *** MRF [147] d: So who was support for you? M: Mary I met through Danny, she was a real good support . at the funeral she came and uhmm ... wrote me a beautiful letter about knowing he was in a better place ... and she was there at the funeral and stuck with us And Teri was good support for me too, I mean I think that we talked you know, about things a lot .. uhmm ... you know its funny, you think about people . .like wanting comfort .. you remember the day I was talking to you Don and CM came in and I started balling and went to him ... we've never, he doesn't talk to me about it anymore, 116

PAGE 126

and uhmm ... a lot of people don't like to talk about it, because, because, it's over. .. for them anyway. *** MRF [326] To say that a terminal illness makes it easier because you have more time to think about ... I think it makes it more devastating because there's nothing you can do about it ... and you continue to think about it ... you see him deteriorate and there's nothing you can do ... hope that the medicine will work. It's horrible that you have to see them like that ... his wife wouldn't deal with him, she couldn't handle it ... everyday it got worse ... people don't realize that once they are gone is the only time we deal with the pain ofloss ... not before they're gone .. *** MRF [464] Once in a while my husband will say, it shouldn't have happened, I really miss him ... I usually have to open the conversation ... and in the friendship part of it, nobody ever asks ... except for some people who are older ... *** 117

PAGE 127

MRF [514] t: Do you talk to your mom a lot about Dan? M: Yeah, she cries every time, every time ... t: Is there any time when you call her and you're crying M: I try not to cry ... I try not to cry with Dan's wife ... I cry by myself. . when no one is around It's like when you cry it makes people very uncomfortable and they don't know ... sometimes I listen to music and that helps . *** MRF [556] You know I should really put a picture ofDan in my office .. I've really been thinking about that . people at work will see it and know I really miss him ... *** MRF [578] The day after Dan died it was easy to tell people about it ... everybody I ran into I told them that my brother died yesterday ... yet not one of those people have said anything to me again .. and now the only way I share that is if someone asks, or if there is an anniversary day ... it was weird .. I don't know if you feel this too, all the sudden there is a sense 118

PAGE 128

ofloss and everyone thinks it's PMS because I'm a woman, not because I've lost a brother. *** lVIRF [717] I still feel that grieving and the pain that we feel is very private, and as much I'd like to share it ... that's why I cry in private, nobody knows how I feel. .. nobody knows ... nobody really cares ... no one knows how I feel.. ... *** end cov 2 119

PAGE 129

MSK DATE: 3/6/96 cov4 Setting We met at MSK's home on a Wednesday evening at seven o'clock. After some discussion, the interview began at 8:30. We sat in the family room and had water and soda as we discussed MSK' s loss of her "healthy mother" MSK's relationship with the interviewers is considered one offriendship. Synopsis MSK began with the story of her "mother". According to MSK, her Aunt Ann, was her only real mother because her biological mother was an alcoholic and was never around. Her Aunt Ann ["mother"] took care of her throughout her lifetime. MSK began with the year of her "mother's" birth, recounted her life, and gave details about the last three years of her life, which ended in January of 1995. MSK [344] About a year before she died ... we talked about her death .. .. she organized the family to deal with her death while she prepared for her death. I am just now realizing the impact of her life on mine ... 120

PAGE 130

t: Were you disappointed that you weren t there when she died? M: yes ... and no. When I talked to her before Christmas, looking back, there was something in the way she talked .. but I didn't think she was going to die so soon ... I regret not calling her again before she died ... the feeling I had with the guilt was that some kind of spirit was with me and she didn't want me to be there and we had already said goodbye * MSK [568] t: Did you fly down to the funeral? M: Yeah, we did ... ever been to Dallas and back in one day ... it was interesting ... but ifl had gone, I probably would have gone for a couple of days .. .I knew I didn't want the kids with me, I just couldn't handle the weight ... this is too hard . I knew I would be different ... so my husband and I went down .. he couldn't be gone more than one day ... what a day .. *** MSK [600] OK, so after the funeral we [the extended family] had to decide when to come back and clean the house ... the sooner the better ... we did a 121

PAGE 131

great job on the house, but did we talk? No .. we really had a good time in a lot of ways, but I realized on the second day we had really not talked ... we talked about things, clothes and stuff ... but not about emotions. So the clean up was really hard for me ... there was a lot of sadness ... I came home angry and sad *** MSK [668] My fathers death was really really a classic I don't want to talk about it with anybody" Uhmm, literally I got ... a couple of weeks ago I went through this with my husband again, and he said "It's time to move on with your life, you're fathers dead" so that experience made me gun shy of talking with somebody about it. Oddly enough, my mother-in-law is someone I can talk with about "mom". She's [mother-in-law] one person that would let me just talk about how she ["mom"] was .. she was always interested ... and now she lets me talk about her .. no problem solving or need to do anything, just talk about her .... the kids watched me go through my fathers death and now they let me talk about her . she's still alive to them ... not like we closed the door. .. I'm going to be with it, ifl have to lock myself in a closet, I'm going to feel 122

PAGE 132

it this time if I can t share it, and so I did and there were days of depression ... *** MSK [731] I was working at the time when "mom" died. It wasn't cold and distant, but it was busy .. kind of"got to get the work done" kind of day . Randy was there and ... I was depressed and I knew all the buzz words and he actually sat down and we had 10 minutes it wasn't much, but it was an acknowledgment of the loss, he was really generous about it, we didn't ever really talk again, but he validated, acknowledged the fact this was tough stuff, it wasn't just "I'm sorry she died", it was I see you're in pain" .. I can see this is hard, I can see that sometimes picking up the phone is hard, and that was enough for me to see we were on the same page *** MSK [782] In transpersonal class, we had 45 people in the class, we broke up into groups one day and it ended up that I was in a group of thirteen women, and we did a ritual experience and I was wearing a cross that "mom" gave me and I took it off and put it on a shawl in the center of 123

PAGE 133

the group At my turn, this was a place where it was appropriate and right, I talked about her death and my sadness and pain. My honor of her was shared with the group and everyone else had some story to share and it was really the first time I really asked women for help. I didn't have to explain anything, I didn't have to give history, I didn't have to report anything, it was all about feelings. This is Naropa, so its all in the moment ... uhmm sadness is sadness and its validated as sadness I wasn't telling people who she was ... I was feeling who she was and that's when I realized she was my healthy mother who taught me joy and taught me laughter she was one of the few people who allowed me to be a child They supported me and walked me through this time in my life. * MSK [893] You know what's been good for me? I rent sad movies .. .if it's a sad movie, I want to see it. It helps when somebody saw the sadness within me without me having to say it . I felt a need for other people to know, I didn't want to talk about it, I didn t want to explain anything I didn't want anybody to feel sorry for me, I didn't want to get into it, and a check in at Nai-opa is a pretty easy way to say "This is who I and 124

PAGE 134

where I am today and nobody's going to come back and say "I don't get it" ... no fixing, no healing, no curing .. so it gave me the opportunity to say the words out loud Letting the words out, having the courage to say the words, and then to hear the words, .. it worked pretty well. *** MSK [945] I feel really lucky that I'm at Naropa. Compassion is a part of the way oflife, it doesn't matter what the pain is, if the pain is there it is real . In the real world it's like I'm always guessing when it's the right time to say anything or not say anything, if it's an event that I can be sad at, or even if it reminds me of something that is really important .. and probably that is what my family needs to hear more than anything. *** MSK [983] When I told one of my professors that I was leaving for a funeral, he asked me "Are you close to this person?" and it was so nice to have someone ask me that question . .it wasn't about the funeral, it was about me and what was going on for me ... it was validating and an 125

PAGE 135

intimate question .. it gave me a different kind language because he was trying to see something about my loss and where I am ... *** MSK [1100] It doesn't have to be a grief work, support group, it has to be human contact, that's all it needs . .. *** end cov 4 126

PAGE 136

RMT DATE RECEIVED: 3/7/96 cov 5 Setting RMT answered the interview questions on tape privately, without the presence of any interviewers She chose a Sunday afternoon to address the questions sent to her in the mail and experienced emotional difficulty addressing some of the questions. RMT' s relationship with the interviewers is one of family and friend Synopsis RMT began her story about the events of the day prior to her husband's heart attack. She addressed the circumstance of his heart attack, subsequent hospital stay, his death, and funeral preparations. Interwoven into her story are events of their life together for more than 44 years. Her husband died in September of 1995. RMT [145] We were married for 44 years, since the first of the year, we knew I was going to retire in August and he had concluded his business 127

PAGE 137

because he could no longer travel. His health had failed from first of the year, he had great difficulty writing, everything became major effort for him He spent a lot of time laying down and resting and I hoped that when I retired I could spend more time with him . he didn't like to be at home when I was still at work He felt very much that he wasn't doing his part . he ahhh . his work was everything, he was a workaholic ... he had no hobbies ... his work was his hobby. He had difficulty remembering phone numbers ... and little by little I understood what his health was .. not ... and he was losing ground yet I didn't know what I faced Outwardly he looked well, he walked very slowly ... and it was a major effort to pick his feet up .... because I know now he had no circulation .. yet he took a walk everyday ... we only had a few weeks together after I retired I know he was pleased ... he would go with me ... but sometimes just waited in the car. *** RMT [213] Because my husband had always traveled ... so being alone in the house wasn't as different as it might be for some. So in a way it felt like he was out of town, but in another way there was always two of you to talk about things and always an ongoing discussion ... that took a lot of 128

PAGE 138

getting used to and I am still experiencing difficulty with that. Now after 44 years, is a major change and difference, and I'm not totally alone ... I have children that are most attentive and helpful, but you, you always dealt with them on a level of what you and your husband were about to do ... whether it was going to dinner to one of the children's, or write a letter, or talk on the phone, and now it was just you ... you decided when you called ... it was a feeling of something left undone. *** RMT [281] My faith saw me through a lot. My Pastor was an absolute God-send I have three friends in particular who were absolutely invaluable to me. They took over and did everyday jobs that had to be done, that I no longer could do ... they kept in touch ... and more to the point, they, they called me so that I didn't sit in a comer without talking to someone .. I was indeed forced to speak to someone because they called me to see that I did . and not only called, they came over ... with help, with questions, with talk, with whatever they could think of to do today, they all did. I never could have made it without them either Its very easy to slip into a state where you just don't talk about it because it hurts, and the more you don't talk about it, the more it hurts. When 129

PAGE 139

people refuse to let you hide and force you to deal with it everyday it truly is helpful .. *** RMT [331] Some of the nice things people did for me ... were cards that I got from people ... the nicest were the ones where they wrote notes about my husband, their part of the time they knew him, not just that they were sorry for me ... but shared something of their relationship with my husband ... and it gives you a feeling that they too were missing him . that's very helpful. ... the least helpful were cards without personal notes .. just didn't mean as much. *** RMT [370] I do try to shop at a different grocery store, because I ran into somebody and managed to get away in a hurry before she asked me ... because I don't believe she knew about my husband . and I didn't want to speak to her about it .... *** 130

PAGE 140

RMT [380] I had sent a letter to a cousin and a cousin's husband that I needed to tell about my husband's death I could have made a phone call .... no I couldn't have made a phone call . I needed to just send a letter, that was easiest for me and I included a copy of the obit from the paper, and told them about the services ... and that was easier for me. I received a letter from the cousin out of town and a phone call from the cousin's husband who was in town, but it was a couple of months before I heard from them. *** RMT [405] I try not to discuss my husband's death with my friends, more to the point I discuss him ... and in particular I have a friend and her husband worked within the same field as my husband did ... and so they shared a lot of the same experiences and knew a lot of the same people and she is very good to open up to me and talk about my husband .. I appreciate that .. it is very helpful. ... *** RMT [415] 131

PAGE 141

I tell you, I... I... don't like to be caught off guard, if people are going to ask me about it, I'd rather they do it over the phone. In person, it is extremely difficult and I seem to get very defensive immediately ... it seems to be softer and kinder over the phone * RMT [469] This morning I very much wanted to go down to church, but I was faced with going alone and I just couldn't do that .. I think I will go to a different church meeting ... maybe that would be helpful to me ... but in a way I don't think it would be ... the larger crowds are on Sunday morning and that's probably where I need to be .. that's something I have in front of me that I need to accomplish I can't stress enough that we need ... we do need to keep a contact and see that bereaved individuals are talking to someone or doing something .. need to make every effort to make them communicate with you. *** RMT [506] The letters and cards .. the written words about other's shared memories of him ... that you can go back and look at again . that you can re-read ... I think it's very helpful to see that in writing ... that is truly 132

PAGE 142

sharing the grief, not just acknowledging it. .. and you don't feel quite so alone. *** RMT [534] I don't like to think about the last week of my husband's life ... I don't think it was terrible painful for him because I don't think he knew about a great lot of it ... so I try not to think about that last week, and I'm terribly grateful that it was only a week he had to be there ... up until that time he was up and around every morning ... I. .. I. .. don't think about that week because it was a very small part of our life together ... I'd rather think about the times we were visiting with the kids ... even the hard times were not as hard as that week. .. *** RMT [561] I do believe that if we had some sort of symbol that we used to alert other people about our situation ... as far as the loss of a loved one, it would be helpful, especially helpful if there might be people you might run into in a social situation, or a shopping situation that might not be aware, they could inquire without fear of being out of place with it. I 133

PAGE 143

believe it might be helpful to those of us who would wear it . kind of like a badge .. I do believe it would be helpful. *** RMT [581] It's a very individual experience to go through, and the only way to avoid it is to never love anyone *** RMT[628] It doesn't matter what people try to do, its never enough, because what you want is for them to make this situation go away and no one can do that. . when you try to look at their efforts in that context, you'll understand that they are trying their very best, its just never enough . whatever it is they do is never enough because they cannot remove the situation and that is indeed what you really want. .. *** end cov 5 134

PAGE 144

APPENDIX D Confirmation of Interview Interpretation We, the undersigned, have read the Results section of this project and agree that T eri Werner and Don Werner have accurately portrayed the purpose, intention, and interpretation of the interview in which we were involved. 135

PAGE 145

REFERENCES Attig, T (1995) Can we talk? On the elusiveness of dialogue. Death Studies, 19 (I), 1-19. Balber, P B. (1995) . Stories of the living-dying: The hermes listener. In I. B. Corless, B. B. Germino, & M. A Pittman (Eds.), A challenge for living: Dying death and bereavement (pp. 95-116). Boston : Jones & Bartlett. Barnes, M. K., & Duck, S. (1994). Everyday communicative contexts for social support In B R. Burleson, T L. Albrecht, & I. G Sarason (Eds.), Communication of social support (pp 175-194). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Bochner, A P & Ellis, C (1992) Personal narrative as a social approach to interpersonal communication. Communication Theory : CT, 2 (2) 165-172. Borden, G. A, & Stone, J. D.(I976). Human communication : The process of relating. Menlo Park, CA: Cummings. Bowen, M (1978) Family therapy in clinical practice New York : Jason Aronson Carse, J.P. (1981). Grief as a cosmic crisis. In 0. S. Margolis, H. C Raether, A H. Kutscher, J. B. Powers, I. B. Seeland, R. DeBellis, & D J. Cherico (Eds ), Acute grief (pp. 3-8) NY: Columbia University Press Cochran, L. & Claspell, E. (1987). The meaning of grief. New York: Greenwood Press Copp, L. A (1994). Past endurance. A construct of pain & suffering. In I. B. Corless, B. B. Germino, & M. Pittman (Eds.), Dying, death and bereavement: Theoretical perspectives and other ways ofknowing (pp. 221238). Boston: Jones & Bartlett. 136

PAGE 146

Corr, C. A (1995) Death education for adults. In I. B. Corless, B B. Germino, & M A Pittman (Eds.), A challenge for living: Dying death and bereavement (pp. 351-365) Boston: Jones & Bartlett. Goffman, E (1971). Relations in public. New York: Basic Books. Gottlieb, B. H (Ed ) (1981) Social networks and social support. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications Hargie, 0 (1986) Self-Disclosure. In 0. Hargie (Ed ) A handbook of communication skills (pp. 223-245). Washington Square, NY: New York University Press. Harvey, J. H., Weber, A L., & Orbuch, T. L. (1990) Interpersonal accounts. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell. Kalish, R. A (1985). Death. grief and caring relationships (2nd. ed.). Monterey, Calif : Brooks/Cole Kastenbaum, R J., (1981) Death. society. and human experience (2nd ed ). St. Louis : C.V. Mosby Co. Kastenbaum, R. J., (1982) New fantasies in the American death system. Death Education. 6 156-166. Keith, R. (1981) Acute grief and survivor expectations In 0 S Margolis, H C. Raether, A H. Kutscher, J. B. Powers, I. B. Seeland, R. DeBellis, & D J. Cherico (Eds.), Acute grief(pp. 201-213). NY: Columbia University Press Kubler-Ross E (1969). On death and dying. NY: Macmillan Lehman, D R., Ellard, J. H., & Wortman, C. B. (1986) Social support for the bereaved: Recipients' and providers' perspectives on what is helpful. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 54 (4), 438-446. Mandelbaum, J. (1989) Interpersonal activities in conversational storytelling. Western Journal of Speech Communication 53 (2), 114-125. 137

PAGE 147

Miles, M. S & Demi, A. S. (1994). Historical and contemporary theories of grief In I. B. Corless, B. B. Germino, & M. Pittman (Eds.), Dying, death and bereavement: Theoretical perspectives and other ways of knowing (pp. 83-106). Boston: Jones & Bartlett. Owens, R. G. (1986). Handling strong emotions. In 0 Hargie (Ed.), A handbook of communication skills (pp. 383-406) Washington Square, NY: New York University Press. Parkes, C. M (1972). Bereavement studies ofgriefin adult life NY: International Universities Press. Pine, V. R. (1974). Dying, death, and social behavior. In B. Schoenberg, A. Carr, A. Kutscher, D Peretz, & I. Goldberg (Eds.), Anticipatory grief (pp 31-47) NY: Columbia University Press. Rosenblatt, P. C. (1993). Grief: the social context of private feelings. In M.S. Stroebe, W. Stroebe, & R. 0. Hansson (Eds ), Handbook of bereavement (pp 102-111) NY: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. Sanders, C. A. (1989). Grief: The mourning after. NY: Wiley & Sons. SavilleTroike, M (1982) The ethnography of communication Oxford : Basil Blackwell Shuchter, S. R. (1986). Dimensions of grief San Francisco: JosseyBass Shuchter, S R., & Zisook, S (1993) The course of normal grief In M.S. Stroebe, W. Stroebe, & R. 0. Hansson (Eds.), Handbook ofbereavement (pp 23-43). New York: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge Silverman, P.R. (1994). Spoiled identities. In I. B. Corless, B. B. Germino, & M. Pittman (Eds.), Dying, death and bereavement: Theoretical perspectives and other ways of knowing (pp. 239-251). Boston: Jones & Bartlett. Silverman, P R. (1995). Helping the bereaved through social support and mutual help. In I B. Corless, B. B. Germino, & M .A. Pittman (Eds.), A 138

PAGE 148

challenge for living: Dying death and bereavement (pp. 241-257). Boston : Jones & Bartlett. Strickland, A. L. & DeSpelder L. A. (1995) Communicating about death and dying. In I. B. Corless, B. B. Germino, & M .A. Pittman (Eds.), A challenge for living: Dying death and bereavement (pp. 37-51). Boston: Jones & Bartlett. Sudnow, D. (1967). Passing on: The social organization of dying. NJ: Prentice Hall. Tannen, D. (1989). Talking voices Cambridge : Cambridge University Press. Vachon, M L. S. & Stylianos, S K. (1988) The role of social support in bereavement. Journal of Social Issues, 44 (3), 175-190. Vail, E (1982). A personal guide to living with loss. New York: Wiley & Sons. Weber, A. L., Harvey, J. H., & Orbuch, T. L. (1992). What went wrong: Communicating accounts of relationship conflict. In M. L. McLaughlin, M. J. Cody, & S. J. Read (Eds ) Explaining one's selfto others: Reason-giving in a social context (pp. 261-280) Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Wilcox, S. G., & Sutton, M (1981) Understanding death & dying (2nd ed ) USA: Alfred Publishing Co., Inc Worden, J. W. (1982). Grief counseling and grief therapy New York: Springer. Zimmermann, S., & Applegate, J. L. (1994) Communicating social support in organizations. In B. R. Burleson, T L. Albrecht, & I. G. Sarason (Eds.), Communication of social support (pp 50-70) Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. 139