The lived experience for women who have experienced divorce : grief and growth : a phenomenological qualitative study

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Thomas, Cynthia M.
Glowacki-Dudka, Michelle, 1971-
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Thesis (D. Ed.)
Department of Educational Studies
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People marry with the intention of remaining married until death. However, marriages are more likely to end in divorce than by death (Popenoe & Whitehead, 1999). This phenomenological narrative qualitative study seeks to gain an understanding of the lived experience for women who have experienced a divorce and the growth they may have gained through their grief The specific research question to be answered was; how did the women live, believe, experience, articulate, feel, and grow through the divorce experience?Ten Caucasian, middle to upper middle-class women, aged from 48-73 years volunteered to be interviewed in the study. Participants had been legally married and divorced. There were eight themes that emerged from the participant's narratives; dating reflections; married life; support/lack of support; self perceptions; family; emotions; growth; and future. The Sandwich Model of Divorce: Grief and Growth was developed from the eight themes of the study. The model was place in a sandwich formate to represent the layers of a person's life that has an impact on divorce.The major findings for this study suggested the participants did in fact have personal growth through grief and were transformed as a result of the experience. However, the participants did not recognize the growth since many areas of growth occurred in what the participants considered to be everyday life and survival. Growth occurred in different stages of their dating, marriages, divorces, and current lives. Implications for this study suggest women can emerge from divorce with personal growth, but the nature of the personal growth depends on the value women place on their roles as people. Better pre-marital counseling, understanding gender roles within the context of dating and marriage, providing mentors and changing societal stigmas may assist women to experience greater personal growth through the grief of divorce.