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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Posttraumatic Hope: The Lived Experience of Bereaved Parents 4 to 10 Years After the Accidental Death of Their Teenage Child
by Romond, Janis Loomis, Ph.D., Union Institute and University, 2010, 307; 3431693
Abstract (Summary)

This hermeneutic phenomenological study explored the phenomenon of posttraumatic hope through the lived experience of bereaved parents 4 to 10 years after the accidental death of their teenage child. Ten mothers met the criteria for the study, demonstrating a hopeful outlook toward the future in the estimation of referring colleagues and in measurements attained on a hope screening questionnaire. Hope was defined as the expectation of positive future possibilities.

Analysis of data obtained from detailed interviews identified 7 essential themes of the meaning of posttraumatic hope as a process of reconstructing the expectation of positive future possibilities from the starting point of parents' profound experience of brokenness induced by their traumatic loss: (a) My life is over, (b) When your heart is amputated you do not necessarily look different, (c) I had to get myself back to living, (d) My beliefs have been challenged, (e) My relationship with my child continues in a new form, (f) When tomorrow is not a certainty, what really matters? and (g) I live with both limited and expanded expectations of positive future possibilities.

Posttraumatic hope originated from hopelessness triggered by the shattering of reality and assumptions on which former views of reality had been built. Parents experienced posttraumatic hope as a conscious choice to go on with their lives, facilitated by allowing interventions by others and by initiating interventions themselves. Other bereaved parents provided validation and guidance and served as role models for a hopeful future. Through the grieving process, choosing to move into the future was facilitated by belief systems that gave meaning to their experience of loss, and by new perspectives and priorities that evolved from reexamining what really mattered in light of their experience.

In contrast to traditional models of closure as a healthy outcome of the grieving process, parents' experiences were characterized by reconstructing a new relationship with their deceased child that was integral to the experience of hope as part of their new future reality. Posttraumatic hope meant living with the ongoing paradox of their loss while experiencing expectations of positive future possibilities. This finding has implications for clinical practice in how counselors view bereaved parents' experience, and for future research that could expand knowledge including generalizability about this phenomenon.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Michael, Christine Nevada
School: Union Institute and University
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-B 71/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Counseling Psychology, Developmental psychology
Keywords: Bereavement, Hope, Human development, Posttraumatic hope, Resilience, Trauma
Publication Number: 3431693
ISBN: 978-1-124-33197-3
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