Communication Studies, Department of


First Advisor

Jody Koenig Kellas

Date of this Version

Spring 4-19-2021


Taladay, C. (2021). Tales of love's perseverance: Family bereavement stories as a means to investigating impacts of end-of-life care on sense-making.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Communication Studies, Under the Supervision of Professor Jody Koenig Kellas. Lincoln, Nebraska: April, 2021

Copyright (c) 2021 Cassidy R. Taladay


The current study explored the stories of 25 participants who had lost an immediate loved one to a terminal illness one or more years ago. Through the lens of the retrospective storytelling heuristic of Communicated Narrative Sense-Making Theory (CNSM, Koenig Kellas, 2018), participants told their bereavement stories. Findings revealed seven themes of significant meanings, values, and beliefs that defined bereavement experiences which led to the development of a framework of three main types of stories told in bereavement which all centered on time: Past, Present, and Future. These stories reflected what was important to participants in their bereavement, such as honoring their loved one’s legacy, time spent together, and/or helping others. They pointed to the ways in which end-of-life care (e.g., palliative care and/or hospice) may influence the processes of meaning-making that they engage in. Specifically, those who identified having had access to end-of-life care felt more comfortable and confident talking with their families about death, grief, and bereavement than those who did not. It also impacted the approach that participants took toward seeking bereavement support to help make sense of their experiences. These findings indicate the influence of barriers to health care on bereavement sense-making processes while extending theorizing on bereavement stories and communication more generally. The implications of these results are discussed, along with future directions for bereavement, narrative, and health equity research.

Advisor: Jody Koenig Kellas