Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Study Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School for Social Work


Same-ex partner loss, Partner loss, Spousal loss, Bereavement, Grie, Death of a partner, Death of a significan other, Disenfranchised grief, Middle age, Older adults, 55 and older, Same-sex marriage, Gay marriage, Same-sex relationships, Gay relationships, Same-sex couples, Gay couples, Gay men, Gay males, LGBT, Gay couples-Psychology, Death-Psychological aspects, Gay men-Death, Spouses-Death, Bereavement-Psychological aspects


The purpose of this exploratory study was to gain a deeper understanding of how people ages 55 and older experience the death of a same-sex partner. Recruitment occurred using snowball sampling primarily through a social organization for older gay men, resulting in a homogenous convenience sample. The study used semi-structured in-person, phone, and Skype interviews with 12 gay men to gather qualitative data about their experience of losing a same-sex partner at the age of 55 or older. Areas of inquiry within the interview included participants’ emotional experience of grief, social supports, meaning making and coping strategies, and practical matters such as medical, legal, and financial issues. The findings of the research demonstrate the importance of social supports to aid in grieving the loss of a partner. The findings also suggest that LGBT people age 55 and older, specifically white gay men living in major metropolitan areas, may have access to at least one source of support and do not seek counseling to aid in coping with the loss of a partner. People who have few social supports may be more likely to seek social support in the form of counseling and would prefer counseling specific to same-sex partner loss. The findings of the study also suggest that practical issues related to finances and legal matters are a prominent part of the experience of losing a same-sex partner. The participants of this study mentioned care and service providers who were gay themselves or attuned to LGBT issues.




iii, 91 pages : color illustrations. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, 2016. Includes bibliographical references (pages 78-82)