Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Program Name/Specialization

Spiritual Care and Counselling


Martin Luther University College

First Advisor

Dr. Kristine Lund

Advisor Role

Dissertation Advisor


Incarceration is already replete with loss before someone of significance to an inmate dies. The prison environment challenges every aspect of grieving, and failing to effectively mourn pathologizes grief, reduces quality of living, and results in behaviours that cause recidivism. It is a poignant interaction between this researcher in his role as a chaplain and a particular inmate that provides the impetus for this study. This study begins with a qualitative meta-synthesis that examined 10 qualitative articles and dissertations published over the last 30 years to explore how some inmates manage to effectively grieve the loss of a significant person. For the purposes of this study, Worden’s (2009) four tasks of mourning were the litmus test by which effectiveness was determined. The methodology for the meta-synthesis was drawn from Sandelowski and Barroso (2007), while Saldaña’s (2012) work guided coding, theming, and theory formulation. Once the meta-synthesis was complete, three focus groups with 14 Ontario prison chaplains were conducted to discuss the findings. The focus group methodology was that of Kruger and Casey (2014), and again, Saldaña’s (2012) work guided coding, theming, and theory formulation. Through this meta-synthesis and the focus groups, the author forged an understanding of how mourning could be better supported in the immoderate conditions of incarceration. In so doing, this study benefits prison grief support workers, prison staff, and correctional administration and may have implications for other institutions that house disenfranchised grievers.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season