Date of Award

10-1998

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

Supervisor

Professor Charlene E. Miall

Abstract

The following study investigates the coping strategies of individuals bereaved by homicide. In contrast to the traditional medical and stage models of grief, which typically inculcate the bereaved into passive roles, and legal institutions, which cast them into the role of "victim," this research conceptualizes these "survivors" as active agents having choices and abilities that can help them cope. Following a review and critique of survivors' traditional position according to legal and medical professionals, a theoretical model was developed that conceptualized bereavement as a loss of the self. However, the part of the self remaining contains gender role prescriptions that, along with survivors' subsequent social interactions and choices in various social and institutional contexts, reconstitute their self identities in active or passive coping forms. By reviewing qualitative data comprised of 32 interviews, 22 surveys, and 108 homicide files from the Ontario Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, the various dimensions of survivors' loss of self were elaborated, and various situations reviewed that not only reportedly helped or hindered their gried, but interactionally reconstructed their identities in passive or active forms. Significantly, survivors' coping strategies were reviewed in these various contexts, and often observed to vary considerably by gender. In the end, survivors who reportedly fared worse were observed to become involved, through a combination of adherence to traditional gender role prescriptions, upsetting social interactions, and various coping choices, in gender-specific grief cycles that not only impeded their coping for often extended periods of time, but often recast their identities as "victims." On the other hand, survivors reportedly faring better did not exhibit behaviors indicative of traditional gender roles, engaged in and experienced helpful social interactions, and chose to balance not only their focus on their selves and others, but to alternate their grieving with distracting activities enabling them to work through their pain gradually and cope under the circumstances as "survivors." The results of this effort not only extend the sociological study of bereavement to a new substantive context, but have implications for the literature on gender, agency, self, and deviance.

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