Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Clinical Psychology

Committee Chair

Robert A. Neimeyer

Committee Member

Meghan E. McDevitt-Murphy

Committee Member

Amanda J. Young

Committee Member

Theresa M. Okwumabua


There is consensus that losing a loved one to violent death is associated with maladaptive recovery in bereaved individuals. From a trauma perspective, violent death losses (resulting from homicide, suicide, or fatal accident) are likely to trigger posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSD). However, other reactions to violent loss, such as depression or complicated grief (CG; a protracted, debilitating, sometimes life-threatening reaction to loss) are also well documented, and have been linked to deleterious medical, psychological, and social outcomes. Some researchers suggest that psychological trauma following loss involves a violation of basic assumptive worldviews, and can precipitate a spiritual crisis following loss, also known as complicated spiritual grief (CSG). Prior research has both established a link between CG and CSG, and demonstrated CG's predictive power in relation to CSG, beyond that of PTSD and depression in a sample of homicidally bereaved African Americans. Our mixed-methods study of a diverse sample of 150 grievers found that: (1) violently bereaved individuals reported greater CG than did non-violently bereaved individuals, (2) these same individuals struggled more with CSG than did their non-violently bereaved counterparts, (3) CG and CSG were correlated across the larger sample, and yet (4) CG and CSG are theoretically different constructs one from another,and (5) mode of death (natural anticpated, natural sudden, homicide, suicide, or fatal accident) differentially predicted levels of CG and CSG in our sample. Finally, content conding of focus group responses of mourners reporting spiritual struggle illustrated the specific impact of various losses, and provide guidance for yet-to-be-developed interventions for violently bereaved sufferers of CSG.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.