Date of Award

Summer 8-2024

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Counseling Psychology


Professional Psychology and Family Therapy


Minsun Lee, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Thomas Massarelli, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Noelany Pelc, Ph.D.


Grief, 9/11 children, continuing bond attachment, memory


Limited research exists on the grief experiences of children who lost a parent on 9/11, particularly how these children evolve in their grief process, including their comprehension of the loss and their evolving attachment to the deceased parent (Kaplow et al., 2018; Alvis et al., 2022). Existing frameworks often assume post-traumatic reactions without fully considering the nuances of grief experiences for these children (Chemtob, 2007; Hoven, 2005).

Two research questions guided this study: (a) How does the pre-loss relationship with the parent influence the ongoing internal relationship with the deceased parent? (b) How does maintaining an internal relationship with the lost parent affect grief experiences?

The study conducted a narrative analysis on eight children who experienced the loss of a parent during 9/11, with their ages ranging from 5 to 12 at the time of their loss. Utilizing a structural model, the analysis identified key elements within their narratives. Content-based themes further uncovered significant themes, including the maintenance of emotional connections with the deceased parent within a continuing bond and the navigation of grief experiences.

The participants' narratives reveal the enduring influence of their pre-loss relationship with a parent on their ongoing internal connection and grief experiences. Core memories serve as crucial elements in maintaining this connection, shaping their evolving identity and narrative as they navigate life's stages and encounter renewed senses of loss. These narratives also emphasize the significance of maintaining internal relationships for emotional and personal development, with aspects of the pre-loss relationship providing continuity and support across various developmental milestones.