Living beyond the unanticipated death of a partner: a phenomenological study

Document Type

Journal Article


Baywood Publishing Company


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Psychology and Social Science




Rodger, M., Sherwood, P., O'Connor, M., & Leslie, G. (2007). Living beyond the unanticipated death of a partner: a phenomenological study. Omega Journal of Death and Dying, 54(2), 107-133. Available here


This research project explored grief and its impact upon men and women who have experienced the sudden and unanticipated death of his or her partner. It included what grief meant to them, how it was manifested in his or her everyday lives and how his or her partner’s death had impacted upon his or her relationship with themselves, with others and the world. A Husserlian phenomenological approach was used to explore the experiences of the ten women and five men whose partner had died up to five years prior to being interviewed. The need for the surviving partner to continue to participate in everyday life placed great strain upon the internal resources of the surviving partner. The surviving partner needed to reinvent him or herself, in an attempt to become independent and regain functionality, whilst dealing with the sadness and loss that they had experienced. The surviving partner discovered that a new life order emerged that included hope, optimism, planning for the future and perhaps the prospect of a new relationship. The death of a partner left the surviving partner with a loss that would always be a part of them, with the memories of his or her relationship being maintained within them that will never be replaced by somebody else. The results of this research project reinforce the need for ongoing education of the community in grief and bereavement issues in order to increase the awareness of the support needs of the bereaved person. The length of time and amount of energy required to incorporate the experience into the survivor’s life, is greatly underestimated by the community, and perhaps by some of the health and caring professionals. Colonial and hospital based bereavement support services need to be established and be proactive using outreach programs, actively offering the suddenly bereaved partner and family support and information.