Master of Arts in Higher Education Theses

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Scott Gaier

Second Advisor

C. Skip Trudeau

Third Advisor

Scott Moeschberger


Literature reports that death is a part of everyday life, and bereavement can be considered a normal life occurrence. It is astounding to think that something classified as normal ignites such pain and brokenness. This study brings much meaning and depth to one of the most painful experiences a college student can encounter. Six years after a tragic accident at a small liberal arts school took the life of four students, this research discloses the stories of six survivor friends who lost a close friend in the accident through phenomenological research. In their own words, six survivor friends report that losing their friend is one of the most painful experiences ever faced. Results indicate that this intense pain pushed survivor friends to find meaning. The research also looks closer at the way literature defines resilience and recovery and what best describes how a college student grieves. The essence of this research recognizes that survivor friends can find meaning and recover in a way that pushes them to live a life of purpose. It was also evident that a close community like found at the studied university has the ability to draw students in and move them along in the grieving process. This leads to healthier outlooks on life for the students and recognizes the care and support needed from the university.