Sense making in the wake of familial death: “I continue to work through those feelings”

Abigail J. Rolbiecki, Karla T. Washington, Jason G. Holman, Jonathan E. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Sense making is especially common in bereavement when a death challenges an individual’s existing worldview. Thus, it is often discussed in the context of statistically atypical deaths, such as the death of a child or death by suicide, that are apt to create a crisis of meaning. Less understood is the process of sense making following more statistically normative deaths, such as those that occur in old age following prolonged illness. In this descriptive phenomenological study, researchers analyzed qualitative interviews and digital narratives created by six individuals who had experienced the death of an older family member with dementia, seeking to identify the essential nature of sense making during bereavement following so-called “normal” losses. Three themes (memorializing the whole person, reflecting on the caregiving experience, and emotional sense making) were identified, shedding light on this specific meaning making process among individuals representing a large and growing segment of the population.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDeath Studies
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


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