Theresa Edwards-Capen


This pilot study explores narratives of parental death shared by adults who were between the ages of four and 25 when they lost their own parents–often suddenly and unexpectedly. Drawing on data gathered through 21 semi-structured, in-depth interviews, four themes emerged in my analysis of the data: Losing a Loved One: Why Them?; Diverting Blame; Finding Purpose; and Learning in Advance. Although experiences of parental deaths were diverse, this research and the typology that it presents illustrates how participants used narrative accounts to explain or find meaning in their parent’s cause of death. Additionally, in some cases, I found that participants attempted to minimize the stigma associated with early death through managing the situation concerning parental loss. Through their accounts, or lack thereof, the participants offered essential insight into how parental death narratives are socially constructed and influenced by cultural norms and expectations of death.

M.A. in Sociology
University of Colorado Boulder

Committee Members

Lori Peek (Chair)
Leslie Irvine
Stefanie Mollborn

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