Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Mary Anne Bunda

Second Advisor

Dr. Uldis Smidchens

Third Advisor

Dr. Thomas Lawson


This study identified rituals and traditions that are used by some mainline Christian denominations for grieving parishioners. Determining if there are differences between denominations in either the adjustment widows make during grief or the funeral rituals in which they participated at the death of their husbands was the initial research question. The second research question was whether the degree of ritual used by members of denominations impacts adjustment during grief.

Three denominations of Christianity--the Roman Catholic church, the United Methodist church, and the Reformed Church in America--were chosen to study this issue. The three have some of the same informal rituals and activities at the time of death of their members, but there are differences in practice and liturgy that separate them from each other. Widows whose husbands had died 13-16 months prior to the study made up the population. With an n of 40, the study included 13 Roman Catholic widows, 15 United Methodist widows, and 12 Reformed Church in America widows.

An inventory of ritual involvement was written to secure information from the widows about activities in which they participated after the death of their husbands. The widows also completed a survey to identify their level of adjustment or depression to the grief they were experiencing. A difference between ritual involvement of Roman Catholic widows and United Methodist widows was found. Analysis of the data was made using a one-way ANOVA and a Tukey post hoc. No significant differences were found among the widows of the three denominations regarding their adjustment to grief. A significant negative correlation (using Pearson r) was found among United Methodist widows regarding ritual participation and grief adjustment. No significant correlation (using Pearson r) of ritual participation and grief adjustment was found for either Roman Catholic or Reformed church widows.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access