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Helm, Heather

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While research around attrition during doctoral programs exists, the lived experience of grief during a doctoral program has little footing in the current literature. This autoethnography examined the lived experience of one doctoral student, acting as both the researcher and the researched. The purpose of this study was to have a meaningful understanding of the broad grief process, and its impact on one doctoral student’s identity development through sharing, analyzing, and interpreting their most raw stories in an effort to name and normalize the challenges and opportunities related to doctoral program persistence and identity development. The following research questions were explored: Q1 What might I learn about the way that my life’s primary grief experience transformed my sense of identity as a doctoral student using autoethnography to evoke, recall, write about, and analyze my experiences and my reactions to them? Q2 What can doctoral students, program faculty, administrators and other stakeholders learn from my experience that may help students persist toward completion of their programs in the face of grief experiences of their own? Exploration and analysis uncovered themes related to academic persistence, identity development, and completion with regard to living through a grief experience during a doctoral program. This narrative description of the lived experience of grief may illuminate often taken-for-granted elements of a student’s grief experience, and the overall potential prevalence for grief in doctoral students. The author offers insight into ways that doctoral program stakeholders may better understand and support grieving doctoral students.


215 pages

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