Gender variation and coping with grief and loss issues in widowhood
Author(s)Wickert, James Leigh
Contributor(s)Boltz, Ronald P.
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AbstractProject (M.S.W., Social Work) -- California State University, Sacramento, 2010.
Existing research in coping with grief and loss in widowhood has focused primarily on the transition process from being married to suddenly being alone. The author contends that while these issues are important, that transitioning into widowhood involves far more than simply addressing this limited aspect. While grief work has been an important aspect of grief and loss research in widowhood, how men and women as separate genders cope with these losses has yet to be more fully examined. Viewing older adults form an ecological perspective allows clinicians a chance to understand older adults concerns from their unique vantage points to assist survivors through the process of loss and reintegration in unique ways that may not be currently reflected in traditional grief therapy. Support systems that clarify important information about the emotional strengths, coping, resiliency, as well as cultural traditions, beliefs, support systems, and environmental systems that are available to the widowed individual can represent important aids in processing the grief and assist them in their transition into widowhood. The author examined how widows and widowers process and cope with their grief and loss issues, both in separate and in combined gender categories, utilizing an ecological approach that provided a structured and educational component. Sources of Data The population studied was widowed individuals located within the Sacramento, California area. The interviews were conducted with licensed, professional social workers and non-social workers who have worked in the bereavement field for at least one year. These professionals were composed of MSW???s, MFT???s, PhD???s, and LCSW???s. The interviews centered on how different genders process and cope with the loss of a spouse or partner. Information regarding widows and widowers emotional, environmental, biological, spiritual, cultural, and economical aspects of life were reviewed. In addition, the discussion included observations on whether widows and widowers processed their grief and loss issues best in group, or individual sessions. Other available resource options for widowed individuals were also explored. Conclusions Reached The largest percentage of widowed individuals who sought assistance were women. Three fourths of the clients who sought help for the loss of their loved one were women, while one fourth of the clients were men. According to this research, a woman???s grieving process generally includes crying, the minimization of distractions, and seeking out others during periods of intense unhappiness in order to process their loss. With men and their grieving process, this research concluded that generally in the Western culture, men find themselves caught in a pattern where they have been socialized from early childhood to contain and control their emotions. The largest percentage of the professionals surveyed who assisted widowed individuals were social workers as opposed to non-social workers. The importance of the statistics given by these respondents implies that the baby boomer era has arrived and with it comes the social and economic implications of an aging population. Widows and widowers will become a growing statistic in this country and social workers must become better prepared to assist them. As helping professionals, we need to redesign and reeducate ourselves on just how widows and widowers process their grief and loss issues and how these issues can better be addressed. This research also concluded that culture plays a huge part in whether individuals seek counseling for their bereavement issues. Additionally, it was ascertained that more specific gender defined groups for each culture may need to be implemented into widowed individuals treatment plans. As helping professionals, we need to redesign and reeducate ourselves on just how widows and widowers process their grief and loss issues and how these issues can better be addressed.