Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master Social Science


School of Psychology and Social Science


Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science

First Advisor

Dr Vicki Banham

Second Advisor

Dr Hossein Adibi


The Australian Special Forces (SF) members have faced considerable adversity with combat deployments to Afghanistan as an elite operational unit of the Australian Defence Force (ADF). There have been 40 combat deaths since 2001 and despite the significant research available on bereavement and violent death, to date there is a gap in the literature to guide the provision of bereavement support for spouses and parents of those SF members killed in action. Contemporary qualitative research into combat related bereavement has found a number of themes which gave meaning to bereavement outcomes found in the non-SF context and recommended that future studies in this field be extended to include SF bereavement. This study used a qualitative transcendental phenomenological design for the study of the bereavement experiences including perceptions of social support of widows and parents of SF members killed in action (KIA) in Afghanistan. In stressing the importance of the lived experiences of participants the purpose was to understand the lived experiences through the use of semi-structured face to face interviews. The journey of this research depicts a two phase study in which the first phase was unsuccessful in the recruitment of bereaved SF spouses and in the second phase the potential bereaved parent participants withdrew before the interview stage. Remaining true to phenomenological inquiry the focus of the researcher returned to the phenomenological paradigm for guidance on the way forward. It was a journey which reflected that in phenomenological inquiry the story should be allowed to tell itself. The resulting extension to this study featured a thematic information analysis of this study. Using the Moustakas (1994) modified van Kaam analysis model, four dominant themes emerged to explain the recruitment challenges of this study. The extracted themes included the SF as a hard to reach population; specific bereavement research challenges; research methods and design and, the ethics review processes. These were used to explain the phenomena of research challenges in the SF context. The outcome of this study is discussed in the context of the themes and guidance for future research in SF combat related bereavement.


Paper Location