Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Program Name/Specialization

Community Psychology


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Simon Coulombe

Advisor Role


Second Advisor

Maritt Kirst

Advisor Role




The project aimed to investigate the differential experiences of those who have received peer or professional support for grief and bereavement. Although much is known with regards to the perceived impacts of peer and professional support in general, there is little research surrounding these support types in the context of grief and bereavement, the potential for these support types to be complementary, and how the COVID-19 pandemic may have impacted the experiences of those receiving these forms of support. The main goal of this project was to address a significant gap in the literature by investigating the following questions: 1) to explore bereaved individuals’ experiences with seeking and/or receiving peer and professional support for their grief, and whether these support types can be complementary, as well as 2) to examine bereaved individuals experiences with online peer or professional support services during the COVID-19 pandemic and afterwards (including its more recent resolution, etc.). The intention of this study was to explore the differential experiences associated with both types of support, but not to determine if one is better than or as good as the other. Grounded in social support theory and guided by a constructivist paradigm, this research implemented a qualitative research design involving semi-structured interviews with 25 participants located in Midwestern Ontario. In total, 10 participants received professional support, seven received peer support, and eight received both forms of support. Interview questions addressed subjects pertaining to participant experience with support provided virtually, participant perception of the training of their support provider, and participant perception of how their support may have contributed to their grief journey. The project was conducted in collaboration with a community partner (Bereaved Families of Ontario – Midwestern Region). Methods of analysis included a hybrid of both inductive and deductive thematic analysis approaches. Results indicated that in both peer and professional support, all participants in this research feel as though their supporter had been adequately trained to provide grief support, except for some facilitators in peer support not holding space for the participants to speak. Additionally, participants highlighted that both support services were able to provide informational support, a reduction of feelings of isolation, and an increased sense of connection and normalization of their grief experience. Participants also expressed that the one-to-one format and the use of specialized therapeutic techniques were helpful components of professional support. Further, participants explained that in peer support, a helpful component of this support type was the shared lived experiences among those attending the peer group. Participants also highlighted many advantages and disadvantages of virtual support, such as the advantage of ability to receive support at home and the disadvantage of the lack of an in-person environment to foster additional bonding experiences with other participants in peer support. Overall, these findings suggest that peer and professional support within the context of grief are complementary support services and the way in which these services can be utilized together should be further explored. As many participants highlighted the challenges they experienced in finding grief support, the hope is that the bereaved community can utilize the results of this research to learn about the grief support options that are available and assist them in making an informed decision with regards to what type of support may be most beneficial to them.

Convocation Year


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