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“A piece of me is missing” The Experiences of African American Women Who Have Lost a Child to Gun Violence

Gun violence is an immense issue in the US, and more specifically in African American communities in Chicago. In the first six months of 2017, there have been over 7,000 deaths related to gun violence in the country. Grieving after the homicide of a loved one is particularly difficult, even more so for mothers and people very close to the person who was killed. Although there is some literature about the bereavement of African Americans after the homicide of a loved one, few studies address African American mothers’ grief after losing a child to gun violence. This study aimed to fill this gap in the literature by investigating through qualitative methods the experiences of African American mothers grieving the death of a child to gun violence. Six themes emerged from the mothers' narratives: 1) the mothers' grief did not lessen with time, although they became better at coping; 2) the mothers reported losing a part of themselves when they lost their child; 3) the violent and abrupt nature of their child's death left the mothers struggling to understand and grieve their child's death; 4) systemic inequality in the US invalidated their child's lives and robbed the mothers’ right to be angry at their son's killers; 5) social support and verbalizing their feelings helped the mothers cope with the murder of their child; and 6) the mothers engaged in activism and spirituality in order to make meaning out of their child's death. Implications are discussed.

Author: 
Allegra Wyatt
School: 
Macalester College
Department: 
Psychology
Research Advisor: 
Dr. Ruby Mendenhall
Department of Research Advisor: 
African American Studies
Year of Publication: 
2017