Date of Conferral



Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Human Services


Lillian Chenoweth


The purpose of this qualitative study was to fill an existing gap in research on bereavement and graduate students. The study explored how bereavement and grief affect a person physically, mentally, and cognitively. Prior studies have addressed bereavement in undergraduate college students, but little research has focused on online graduate students and bereavement. This study fills that gap in the literature allowing university personnel and the public access to an understanding as to how online graduate students' bereavement affects their academic performance and how they perceive their university supports them during their time of bereavement. This exploration used a case study design and Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory as its theoretical foundation. Open-ended interview data were collected from 10 formerly bereaved graduate students in face to face structured interviews. Interviews were transcribed and categorized using a 7-step process to organize all relevant statements. The results revealed that bereaving graduate students felt isolated, experienced difficulty focusing, and required extensions for completing their coursework. Participants concluded it was important for bereaving students to ask for help during bereavement. This study provides an understanding of the experience of being a bereaved online graduate student, and further provides information to assist university personnel in how to serve bereaved graduate students. This information may lead to enhanced programs or services meeting the needs of graduate students, including promotion of staff training related to the unique needs of bereaved graduate students.