Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Maria T. Riva, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jennifer Erikson-Cornish

Third Advisor

Duan Zhang


Acquaintance, College students, Grief and loss, Prolonged grief disorder, Relational closeness, Suicide


A growing percentage of college students are experiencing severe and debilitating psychological problems (Caulfield, 2000; Douce, 2004; Kitzrow, 2003). Despite being a commonly-encountered stressor among undergraduates (Currier et al., 2006), the occurrence of bereavement is addressed rarely among the college mental health literature. However, bereavement has been shown to lead to increased suicidality and other problematic mental health symptoms (Prigerson, Bridge et al., 1999). Prolonged Grief Disorder (PGD), a newly-defined mental health diagnosis, has been found to be a more accurate indicator of poorer mental health functioning among bereaved individuals than other mental health conditions (Silverman et al., 2000). Some research suggests that the level of perceived emotional closeness felt toward the deceased is of great importance when assessing one's grief response (Archer, 1999; Cleiren, 1993). This study explored the relationship between perceived closeness to the deceased, PGD, and suicidality. The Personal Acquaintance Measure (PAM; Starzyk et al., 2006) was used to quantitatively assess perceived closeness. Bereaved undergraduates from a large college in the Western United States were asked to assess their levels of prolonged grief symptomotology, suicidality, and perceived closeness to a deceased person of their choosing. Hierarchical regression analyses were used to explore the relationships between these variables. The results indicate that perceived closeness to the deceased accounted for a significant amount of the variance in PGD symptom severity, but not suicidality. The results also suggest that suicidality should be assessed in addition to, and separately from, PGD in order to avoid overlooking those who do not meet the criteria for PGD yet who are suicidal nonetheless. Additional clinical implications, limitations of the study and suggestions for future research are addressed.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Jeffrey Alan Rings


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

178 p.


School Counseling, Mental Health, Clinical Psychology