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Emotional functioning and meaning making in grief



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This dissertation examines the relation between emotional functioning and meaning making in bereavement. Emotional functioning (i.e., awareness, expression, and regulation of emotions) has been traditionally considered crucial in grief coping (Pennebaker, 1990; Raphael, 1983). At the same time, bereaved people who were able to find a meaning in their loss experience were found to show better adjustment and were less likely to develop grief complications than those who did not find a meaning (Davis, Wortman, Lehman, & Silver, 2000; Tolstikova, Fleming, & Chartier, 2005). The present research aimed to build a more inclusive model of grief coping by examining the interplay of emotional functioning and meaning making in grief in the same sample of people. The emotionally focused approach to human functioning developed by L. Greenberg (Greenberg, 2004) forms the theoretical foundation for the study. This approach proposes that emotional arousal, awareness, expression, and regulation provide grounds for meaning construction and eventually help to assimilate a shattering event. Following Greenberg’s conceptualization (Greenberg, Auszura, & Herrmann, 2007), the first set of studies of the present dissertation examined productive and unproductive emotional functioning in grief. Three hundred and fifteen bereaved people were recruited through the online bereavement support websites to help develop and validate the Productive-Unproductive Emotional Processing in Grief questionnaire (PUG). The PUG scores were further used to predict meaning making in grief. It was shown that bereaved individuals who were engaged in productive emotional processing of grief and demonstrated good emotional regulation were more capable of making sense of their loss six months later. The data for the first set of studies were collected via the Internet. While the Internet method of data collection has been previously used in grief research, its validity and reliability had not been assessed. Thus, Study 4 of the present dissertation reviewed the use of the Internet in bereavement research and examined the reliability and validity of online data collection. The demographic characteristics and grief scores of the Internet participants were compared to those completed by traditional paper-and-pencil method. The study demonstrated that the online survey results were comparable to the traditional paper-and-pencil survey method.



grief, emotion, meaning



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)






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