In the shadow of loss

Psychology of Grief & Loss (Psyc 4513/6513)

The noted family therapist, Carlos Sluzki, once remarked that “Losses are the shadow of all possessions--material and immaterial.”  Although we rarely stop to ponder it until we ourselves lose something or someone important to us, our existential reality as human beings is that ultimately every person, place, project and possession we love we will one day lose, at least in an earthly sense.  How we learn the lessons of loss, then, shapes who we become.  This course is devoted to understanding the implications of human impermanence at the concrete level of real people, some of whom may seek services from us in our eventual roles as psychologists for losses that overwhelm them, sometimes engendering chronic complications in their ability to live with meaning and purpose beyond their bereavement.

Drawing on contemporary research and scholarship, we will survey the many contexts and challenges of grief, beginning with psychological and social factors at the end of life, and progressing to the alternative pathways by which survivors of a loved one’s death traverse bereavement, sometimes in a way that leads to resilience or even growth, and sometimes in a fashion that leads to serious social, psychological and medical outcomes that can even prove life threatening.  We will then move on to explore current theories of grief and the evidence supporting them, as well as their clinical implications.  The majority of the course will then consider a range of circumstances associated with special risks to survivors, including a child’s loss of a parent, a parent’s loss of a child, spousal bereavement; grief associated with suicide, homicide, terrorism; spiritual and cultural factors in grieving; death in the military; bereavement experiences for gay and lesbian persons; hospice bereavement services, and more.  In each case we will attempt to bridge research and practice, focusing on engaged scholarship as well as basic bereavement science to foster a more sophisticated appreciation of the psychology of loss in our personal and professional lives.

What you should know

Class schedule:
Monday, 5:30-8:30 pm,

Fall 2019

208 Psychology, U Memphis


Robert A. Neimeyer, PhD

Teaching Assistants:

Katy Higgins

Jessica Sawyer

For more information about this course, readings, our weekly schedule and class policies, place your cursor over the Teaching button and pull down and click the appropriate page in the navigation panel.