Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Ellen Page-Robin

Second Advisor

Dr. Janet Pisaneschi

Third Advisor

Dr. Lewis Walker

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Subhash Sonnad


The death of a partner has long been recognized for its ability to alter the lifestyle of the survivor. This life event can be even more significant for older adults who may be facing loss in several areas of their lives simultaneously. The focus of this qualitative study is on how older adults socially reconstruct their lives following a partner's death. The social construction of reality (Berger and Luckmann, 1966) guides design and analysis. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 29 individuals following the death of a lifelong partner, described as a relationship of 45 or more years. Participants had been widowed for a period of between six and forty-eight months prior to the interviews. It was found that social support was an essential component in the adjustment to bereavement and most respondents felt adequately supported. Adult children were most often named as providers of social support for the survivors, but the support provided by them was more instrumental than affective. Participants identified the church as the social institution that provided the most support, and spiritual beliefs were a source of comfort to a majority of the survivors.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Sociology Commons