A grounded theory study of grief in the lives of lesbians age 60 and older: Implications for practice and societal changeedit
The purpose of this study is to understand the lived experiences of self-identified lesbians age 60 and older concerning grief related to various life experiences and to develop a grounded theory related to the findings. The purpose goes beyond describing the phenomenon of grief focusing on grief related exclusively to death loss. The purpose includes eliciting comments about grief related to overt or covert discrimination due to ageism, sexism, and/or homophobia as well as the connection between the personal and the political in terms of what needs to change to bring about social justice. The issue of grief in the lives of older lesbians can be defined as being increasingly significant due to the fact that the many factors affecting the older lesbian population cause distress to individuals, families, and the community at large. This phenomenon can be defined socially, politically, and economically; and many aspects of the problem cross the boundaries of these areas of definition. The methodology of the present study followed grounded theory methodology as developed by Glaser and Strauss (1999). Sampling consisted of snowball sampling followed by theoretical sampling. A total of 27 women participated in this study. Data collection was conducted through 3 focus groups, 22 individual interviews, and 1 interview with an interracial lesbian couple. Data analysis took place throughout the study. Constant comparative analysis was used, and data analysis was assisted by use of the HyperResearch program through www.researchware.com. The grounded theory that emerged from this study showed that these older lesbians experience an underlying global, contextual grief in almost every aspect of their daily lives due to the lack of acceptance, celebration, and support of their primary relationships as well as their lesbian identity. This grief is experienced as personal and interpersonal grief and grief due to the political climate. Grief for many women is mitigated by positive coping strategies, support systems, and their vision for social action and change. Implications for clinical and community social work practice, social policy, and social work education are discussed. Implications for future research are also identified, and conclusions expressing hope for the future are suggested.