Welcome to
"Grief in a Family Context"

This course is offered every Fall semester. If you would like to be contacted when registration begins, let Dr. Kathleen Gilbert know at gilbertk@indiana.edu

Developed and taught by Kathleen R. Gilbert, Ph.D. Questions? Contact her at gilbertk@indiana.edu.

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Information on this Page

Description of Course * * * Goals * * * Topics * * * Readings * * * Tuition and Fees * * * Expectations * * * Technological Needs for this Course * * * Limitations of this Course * * * To Register or for Further Information

Description of Course

Grief in a Family Context (HPER F460/F560) is a 3-credit, combined graduate and undergraduate course that examines grief processes that take place within families as they experience loss. In this course we will explore a variety of factors that facilitate and/or impede the ability to function after loss. We have incorporated an international component, drawing on materials, primarily Asian and African, that will broaden our understanding of loss and grief beyond the dominant cultural views of North America.

This course is offered completely over the internet, using the capabilities of the World Wide Web along with e-mail and a web-based group conferencing system (Oncourse). Using these communication formats, students are expected to interact and exchange ideas with each other, the professor, and others involved with the course.

Course Goals

This course is intended to examine the grief process as it is played out in the context of family. The family is seen as an interactive system, with a complex mix of actions, perceptions and expectations influencing relationships within families. It is also seen as affecting the intensity and course of the grief response of family members. A large number of factors influence the course of grief within families and can facilitate or impede the grief resolution of family members and this course will explore a number of the most prominent ones. Students will leave this course with a deeper appreciation of and better understanding of grief as a family phenomenon.


This course is comprised of one preparatory (pre) unit, ideally to be completed before the beginning of the semester, and fourteen pre-determined content units, and two units for which students determine the focus. The topic sequence will be as follows:

* Pre-unit -- Preparation for Class (using the internet)
* Unit 1 -- What Is Grief?
* Unit 2 -- Family Context of Grief
* Unit 3 -- Culture
* Unit 4 -- Developmental Issues #1
*Unit 5 -- Developmental Issues #2
*Unit 6 -- Roles and Relationships
* Unit 7 -- Gender and Personality
* Unit 8 -- The Complicated Nature of Grief in Families
* Unit 9 -- Ambiguous Loss and Disenfranchised Grief
* Unit 10 -- Chronic Grief (Or Is it Periodic Grief?)
* Unit 11 -- Anticipated Losses and Anticipatory Grief
* Unit 12 -- Traumatic Loss and Grief
* Unit 13 -- Making Decisions in a Family Context
* Unit 14 -- Ceremonies and Rituals for Connection and Change


In addition to readings that are in course reserves,Letters Never Sent, by Ruth Van Reken, andCradled all the While, by Sara Corse, are available through the IMU bookstore. To order, US students can contact the IMU Bookstore (toll-free), at 1-800-553-6471. International students, and US students who prefer to use e-mail, can contact bkstext@indiana.edu. In addition to these readings, this course makes use of various web sites and a number of lifestories of loss, written and/or gathered for this course. These stories will be used as we see how concepts from class can be applied to real-life situations.

Course Tuition and Fees

Tuition costs information is available on the HPER Distributed Education Registration web page at http://www.indiana.edu/~hperweb/de/registration.html.

Course Expectations

Students will be evaluated on their completion of the tasks in the pre-unit, answers to questions and completion of tasks posed on the content units' Web pages, and participation in class discussion. In order to complete the course, students must complete the pre-unit tasks, respond to questions embedded in the instructional units or the tasks assigned therein, contribute to discussion a minimum of one time per unit and respond to the comments of at least one other class member for each of the topical units.

Technological Needs for this Course

This course will be conducted entirely over the World Wide Web and via E-mail. For these, you will need:

* A computer with which to access the World Wide Web
* An Internet connection
* A WWW browser (e.g., Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer)
* The ability to send and receive e-mail
* The ability to access Oncourse, conferencing software used at IU
* The ability to send and receive files

Limitations of this Course

This course is limited in the following ways:


Because technical problems often are unique to the system you use, the professor will be unable to answer questions about technical matters. We encourage you to contact your local service provider. Here at IU, this is the University Information Technology Services (UITS) Support Center at 812-855-6789 or uitshelp@indiana.edu. If you have problems with the class conferencing site, please let me know immediately.

If you have problems during the semester that may affect your ability to participate in the class, please let us know. We will work with you to help you finish.


Because of our use of stories of loss and grief from actual families, and because of the applied approach taken here, this type of course may trigger an emotional response in students. In most cases, students have indicated that this is one of the benefits of taking such a course. An important caution is that if you are actively struggling with a loss, you may find the content of this course overwhelming. It is not intended to serve as a substitute for therapy or participation in a support group and we encourage you to seek professional help if needed. If we become concerned about any students in the course, we reserve the right to recommend professional help.

To Register or Request Further Information

Grief in a Family Context will be limited in size. All students enrolled on the Bloomington campus must contact the professor and receive authorization to enroll in the course. At that time, any questions you have about the way in which the course is run will be answered. After receiving authorization, students currently enrolled at Indiana University-Bloomington may register in this course, using the 4-digit section number listed in the Schedule of Classes. Undergraduates will register for the HPER F460 section of the course and graduate students will register for the HPER F560 section.

Students who wish to take this course at a distance, and are attending other universities and colleges or who are enrolled at other IU campuses, should first discuss with appropriate individuals on their campus whether or not this course will transfer to their institution. These students will register for the course using the HPER Distributed Education Registration page at http://www.indiana.edu/~hperweb/de/registration.html. Contact the instructor after registering.

Students who wish to take this course at a distance, and are interested in taking the course who are not enrolled in a degree program may also enroll using the HPER Distributed Education Registration page at http://www.indiana.edu/~hperweb/de/registration.html. Contact the instructor after registering.

This course has been approved by the National Council on Family Relations for 4.4 Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) credits. If you are interested in certification, visit the National Council on Family Relations home page.


4 Stars Awarded by McKinley

Growth House Award 

Page created: 1/96. Last updated: 08/28/09.
URL: http://www.indiana.edu/~famlygrf
Copyright 1996-2009, Kathleen R. Gilbert, Ph.D.

For information about this work, please contact Kathleen Gilbert at gilbertk@indiana.edu. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce and distribute copies of this work for non-profit educational purposes, provided that copies are distributed at or below cost, and that the author, source, and copyright notice are included on each copy. This permission is in addition to rights of reproduction granted under Sections 107, 108, and other provisions of the U.S. Copyright Act. Before making any distribution of this work, please contact Kathleen Gilbert to ascertain whether you have the current version.