Master of Arts in Higher Education Theses

Date of Award

2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Scott Gaier

Second Advisor

Todd Ream

Third Advisor

Stephen Bedi

Abstract

Many college students leave college having experienced the death of someone close to them. Research shows grief has both emotional and physical effects on college students, making their time in school challenging. While research on the effects of bereavement on college students exists, research on the support peers offer to bereaved college students during this time remains scarce. The present study sought to gain a deeper understanding of college student bereavement by answering the following research question: What are bereaved college students’ experiences with peer support within residence life? Using a phenomenological qualitative approach, the study explored the experiences of eight bereaved students at a small, liberal arts institution in the Midwest. The results showed the important role peers played in providing support to the bereaved individuals. The main themes of the study showed the bereaved individuals’ experiences with peer support, the difficulties of grieving on a college campus, and the importance of discussion about grief for bereaved individuals, as well as the increased empathy of bereaved individuals because of their experience with loss. The results of the current study provide higher education professionals with a deeper understanding of the importance of peer support for grieving college students and offer guidance for future interaction with bereaved college students.

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