Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Robert Neimeyer

Committee Member

James Murphy

Committee Member

Kathryn Howell

Committee Member

William Feigelman


The loss of a loved one due to sudden causes is a relatively common phenomenon, with nearly half of adults in the United States reporting at least one impactful unexpected loss of a close other in their lifetime. Although the majority of people who experience the death of a loved one will adjust without impairment, individuals who are confronted with the sudden loss of a loved one face a number of challenges that leave them vulnerable to mental health and grief-related complications (e.g., complicated grief, PTSD, mood and anxiety-related disorders, suicide risk, feelings of guilt and shame). Given the panoply of challenges associated with losing a loved one to sudden causes, recognizing important bereavement-related needs among this population is a critical task as needs may reflect modifiable grief-related variables that can assist with post-loss adjustment. Using a person-centered approach, this study sought to (a) identify distinct patterns (latent classes) of bereavement-related needs among survivors of sudden loss, (b) assess individual, relational, and loss-related predictors of needs class membership, and (c) investigate whether survivors in these need profiles differ in terms of bereavement outcomes. Using latent profile analysis, four distinct classes of bereavement-related needs were identified among a sample of 347 sudden loss survivors: a low needs (LN) class, a moderate-spiritual (MNS) needs class, a moderate-relational (MNR) needs class, and a high needs (HN) class. A number of individual, relational, and loss-related factors, such as gender identity, pre-death closeness with the decedent, time elapsed since the death, and mode of loss (e.g., suicide, overdose, natural-sudden) predicted need class membership. Lastly, clear differences emerged between need classes with regard to grief and mental health sequalae indicating that individuals in the HN class encounter significantly greater adverse outcomes, including higher levels of complicated grief, PTSD, mood and anxiety-related symptomatology, among others, while individuals in the LN class reported significantly lower levels of adverse outcomes including greater levels of post-loss adjustment (e.g., meaning making, posttraumatic growth). Results underscore the importance of tending to bereavement-related needs in clinical practice and other supportive contexts. Additional recommendations for clinical work and future research are discussed.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest