Poster Session
Issue Date: August 2016
Published Online: August 01, 2016
Updated: January 01, 2021
Widow(er)hood: Finding Meaning Through Spirituality
Author Affiliations
  • University of Mary
Article Information
Health and Wellness / Health Services Research and Education
Poster Session   |   August 01, 2016
Widow(er)hood: Finding Meaning Through Spirituality
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011510193.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011510193.

Date Presented 4/7/2016

Spirituality was a vital component of well-being and perseverance of the participants in this study. Occupational therapists can gain information about the connection between spirituality and the widow(er)hood experience. Future studies are needed to explore the relationship between widow(er)s and spirituality.

Primary Author and Speaker: Jennifer Schroeder

Contributing Authors: Ashley Brackel, Carlie Buechler, Jennifer Harpster, Katie Kovash, Katie Welle

The purpose of this study was to discover the meaning of spirituality in the lived experiences of widow(er)s age 40 yr and older who lived in central North Dakota. The research questions were (1) “what is the meaning of spirituality to widow(er)s who were 40 years or older who resided in central North Dakota” and (2) “in what ways, if any, has spirituality changed since the loss of a spouse?”
How does one find meaning in life through spirituality after the loss of a spouse? Bereavement may affect many areas of widows’ or widowers’ life, which influences their overall well-being and quality of life. Utilizing spirituality in occupational therapy practice establishes rapport and a therapeutic relationship with the client. A qualitative phenomenological design was used that allowed participants to tell their stories, and the researchers aimed to explore the attitudes and beliefs surrounding the phenomenology of spirituality for widow(er)s and to understand how they reflected on those experiences.
Participants included in the study were widow(er)s age 40 yr and older who resided in central North Dakota. These individuals were not remarried. Participants were individually contacted by phone or email by the project advisor to explain the purpose of the study and to affirm that the participant was willing to be involved in the study. An arrangement for a meeting date and time for the individual interview were also established.
Before conducting individual interviews, researchers attained a signed informed consent form from each participant. Participants were allowed voluntary participation. An interview guide was developed by the researchers before the start of the study that consisted of eight questions with room for the researchers to ask follow-up questions as needed to gain a better understanding of the widow(er)’s perceptions about spirituality. During the interviews, researchers collected additional information through observation and field notes. Observation and field notes focused on social interaction, affect, behaviors, verbal expressions, attentiveness, physical observations, and environment. Each interview was audiotaped with a digital voice recorder and transcribed verbatim.
Five participants between the ages of 44 and 92 yr were chosen using a purposive sampling technique. Each participant participated in a semistructured interview. Three of the 5 participants chose to participate in a focus group. Qualitative data were analyzed through coding, categorization, and identifying themes.
Six themes emerged: (1) Participants realized the importance of developing a sense of peace and contentment to progress beyond the loss of their spouse; (2) participants endured varied experiences related to the loss of their spouse; (3) participants developed a deeper appreciation of their loss experience by finding comfort through others, and they were a source of strength for others with similar challenges; (4) participants accepted opportunities for growth to persevere and to find a new lease on life that contributed to their well-being; and (5) participants encountered hardships and emotional irregularities as a result of losing their spouse.
Research results provide a deeper understanding about the significance of spirituality and faith during the spousal loss experience. This study suggests that widow(er)s seek peace and unity through support of others in order to gain a new beginning and the importance of incorporating spirituality into occupational therapy practice. Occupational therapy uses a client-centered approach focusing on all aspects of a client’s life. This proposal influences occupational therapy because occupational therapy is one of the health care professions that may address spirituality in practice. Occupational therapists view all dimensions of a client’s life, including spirituality, to provide the best quality of care. A client-centered approach is crucial to guarantee the topic of spirituality will be understood from the client’s perspective instead of from the therapist’s perspective.