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14-11-2017 | Original Paper | Uitgave 3/2018

Journal of Child and Family Studies 3/2018

A Matter of Life and Death: Understanding Continuing Bonds and Post-traumatic Growth When Young Adults Experience the Loss of a Close Friend

Tijdschrift:
Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 3/2018
Auteurs:
Catherine H. Stein, Catherine E. Petrowski, Sabina M. Gonzales, Gina M. Mattei, Jessica Hartl Majcher, Maren W. Froemming, Sarah C. Greenberg, Erin B. Dulek, Matthew F. Benoit

Abstract

Young adults establish networks of friends for companionship, support, assistance, and resource exchange. Friends have been found to play an essential role in promoting young adults’ health and well-being. Yet, relatively little is known about how young adults cope with the death of a close friend. Studies of grief and bereavement in adulthood focus primarily on the death of a family member. In the present qualitative study, we examined the narrative accounts of 20 young adults (ages 21–34) to describe the prevalence and nature of continuing bonds and post-traumatic growth experiences in coping with the death of a close friend. Participants completed semi-structured interviews in which they described the circumstances of their friend’s death, the nature of their friendship, whether and how they continued their relationship with their deceased friend, and the impact of their friend’s death in their everyday lives. Overall, young adults articulated ways that they continued their relationship with the deceased friend that included personal communication, personal change, and homage activities. Post-traumatic growth experiences as a result of their friend’s death included behavioral changes and personal changes in outlook. The narratives of all participants reflected their simultaneous experience of continuing relationship ties with the deceased and a sense of personal growth as a result of their friend’s death. We report areas of overlap and distinctions between expressions of continuing bonds and post-traumatic growth in the lived experience of young adults coping with the loss of a friend. Implications of findings for future research are discussed.

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