Clemens, Elysia V.

Committee Member

Helm, Heather M.

Committee Member

Jones, Laura


Counselor Education and Supervision


University of Northern Colorado

Type of Resources


Place of Publication

Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created





223 pages

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Born digital


Grief is a highly personal, subjective, and natural stress reaction to a real, perceived, or anticipated loss, particularly in cases of death (Buglass, 2010; Corr, 2007; Doka, 2003; 2007a). All mental health professionals, regardless of setting, will inevitably work with clients who face acute or long-term conditions involving life-limiting illness, dying, death, and various forms of grief (Gordon, 2013). Prominent theories on the grieving process tend to initiate attention after a death or other loss has occurred (Freud, 1917; Stroebe & Schut, 1999; Worden, 2002). Researchers have also given primary attention to the negative impacts or resulting pathologies of these stressful circumstances (e.g., psychological, medical, or social impairments), with far less focus on potentially positive outcomes (Neimeyer, Hogan, & Laurie, 2008; Siegel & Schrimshaw, 2000). It is suggested that a better understanding of the grief process and the factors that contribute to successful navigation and avoidance of problems in grief is essential (Walijarvi, 2011). Grief to Personal Growth Theory guided the current study and is composed of various individual reactions said to represent a common trajectory of grief (Hogan, Greenfield, & Schmidt, 2001; Hogan & Schmidt, 2002). This theory was shown to hold validity in anticipatory grief experiences in this investigation. The participants in this study consisted of 120 English-speaking adults who were anticipating the loss of a loved one (e.g., due to terminal cancer, advanced Alzheimer’s disease, etc.) at the time of participation. Proactive coping represented the primary independent variable under investigation, and growth (posttraumatic and personal) served the role of the dependent variable. Social support was examined under the context of its power in predicting growth as well as mediating effects. Participants in this study reported significant evidence of posttraumatic and personal growth during their anticipatory grief experiences. Proactive coping was found to hold explanatory value in personal growth, over and above other covariates. Social support was found to significantly mediate the relationship between proactive coping and both forms of growth. The utility of social support was determined to be a function or outcome of the active mechanism of proactive coping. No evidence was uncovered concerning the relationship between time variables (life expectancy, time since notification of prognosis) and the grief reaction factors of despair, detachment, disorganization, and personal growth. The implications of the current study are intended to assist counselors, other helping professionals, and counselor educators in providing strength-based support to individuals anticipating the loss of a loved one. Suggested directions for future research are provided as well as limitations of the current study.

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