Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS)


Liberal Studies

First Advisor

Richard Chrisman

Second Advisor

Mark Rye


The aim of this thesis is to define and expand on the experience of traumatic loss and to examine the helpful role that pastoral caregivers play in supporting survivors of traumatic loss. The thesis will discuss and analyze theological and psychological responses to traumatic loss that are both "life-giving" or growth-oriented and "life-limiting" or growth-inhibiting. Its goal is to serve as a guide for pastoral caregivers who are caring for with bereaved people "walking through the darkness" of traumatic loss.

Part I will begin with an overview/analysis of the grief process, and parts II and III will build on the claim that traumatic loss is complex, warranting its own space for theological and psychological study. Part IV of the paper will examine theological responses to grief and traumatic loss, expanding on Pargament et al.'s (2006) work on spiritual orienting systems. Parts V and VI explore the role of pastoral caregivers in the grief process, delving into the ministry of presence and identifying healing practices, including an overview of the role of social support, prayer, forgiveness, meditation, and guided imagery.

In conclusion, this thesis argues pastoral caregivers have a unique and impactful role in supporting survivors of traumatic loss. The goal is for this thesis to offer guidelines, both practical and theological, for pastoral caregivers and to contribute to the overall healing of those affected by traumatic loss.