Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Andrea Nesmith


Social Work


The purpose of this study was to explore the grief experience of people who develop severe and persistent mental illnesses (SPMI). Group members and facilitators of a Grieving Mental Illness group that met at a suburban drop-in center were asked to voluntarily participant in semi-structured, qualitative, in-person interviews. Content analysis was used to find themes in the group member and facilitator interviews. The findings indicated that individuals with SPMI have a unique grief experience that is enhanced by many factors. Group participants expressed having cycling feelings of grief. These feeling were triggered by life events or reminders of the loss they experienced and were affected by outside factors, like negative reactions from family because of the mental illness. Group participants did not identify that they were grieving until they joined the Grieving Mental Illness group, but after addressing areas of grief they were able to accept themselves and their new reality. Facilitators identified the need for acknowledgement that mental illness exists and can cause grief. They also observed that gaining insight for ill individuals into the effects of having a mental illness can take time; connecting with other people can be an important healing component for grief; and feelings of grief cycle throughout a person’s life. Further research as well as grief services for individuals with SPMI diagnosis’ are needed to help individuals process areas of grief.

Included in

Social Work Commons