About the course

The Psychology of Grief & Loss is designed to familiarize students with major contemporary models of grieving that go beyond popular but misleading stage models, which depict mourning as a relatively predictable series of emotional phases beginning in denial, and progressing through various forms of distress before eventuating in acceptance and recovery.  Instead, students will examine evidence that adjustment to loss entails multiple processes of adaptation on social, psychological and spiritual levels, which can be surprisingly varied and all too often fraught with complication.  Our goal will therefore be to identify factors associated with problematic adjustment to bereavement and to configure a constructive role for psychology in assisting the significant minority of survivors who need professional support.

Because the class will enroll undergraduates, honors students, and graduate students, course requirements will differ for the three groups.  In general, undergraduates will be responsible for core readings in professional level sources, weekly reaction papers, a self-study and regular class participation.  In addition to these requirements, both honors students and graduate students will write a publishable professional book review on a title approved by the instructors, and graduate students will convey weekly "meta-reflections" on the reaction papers of their undergraduate classmates.

About us

Robert A. Neimeyer, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychology, University of Memphis, where he also maintains an active clinical practice. Bob has published 30 books, including Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society:  Bridging Research and Practice, and serves as Editor of the journal Death Studies. The author of over 500 articles and book chapters and a frequent workshop presenter, he is currently working to advance a more adequate theory of grieving as a meaning-making process.

Jessie Sawyer is currently pursuing her Masters in Mental Health Counseling at the University of Memphis, where she is also a research assistant in the Loss and Transition Laboratory.  She has a special interest in the study of near death experiences and the impact of interpersonal relationships on grief in the wake of loss. 

Katy Higgins is completing her Masters of Science in General Psychology with a clinical focus. She is currently a research assistant in the Loss and Transition Lab and the Psychotherapy Research Lab at the University of Memphis. She is  working on a tandem project in which she will be assessing a grief therapy technique involving writing letters to the deceased.