Methodology

This survey was based on an earlier study design, co-developed by one of the researchers in order to study experiences of depression (see Matthew Ratcliffe, Experiences of Depression: A Study in Phenomenology, Oxford University Press, 2015).

To formulate the study questions, the researchers identified themes that are prominent in published first-person accounts of grief and, in particular, those aspects of grief that were frequently identified as bewildering and difficult to understand. Consistent themes included changes in the experience of self, body, world, time, change, reality, and interpersonal connection. The researchers were also guided by work in the phenomenological tradition of philosophy, where such themes are similarly prominent.

Questions were designed to investigate experiences of grief in a non-leading way. Participants were invited to provide free-text responses to these questions and to write as much or as little as they liked. The data collected was then employed to inform ongoing philosophical studies of grief undertaken by the researchers. It is also anticipated that the results will be of use to other researchers, in a variety of disciplines, who are working on grief.

The survey was made openly available on the online platform Qualtrix, and the link to it was disseminated widely via social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook. Anyone over the age of eighteen who identified as currently or previously experiencing grief over the death of a person was invited to complete it. The link was also shared by charities such as Cruse Bereavement Care and support groups such as Way Up.

Although UK-based respondents were not specifically targeted, the survey was conducted by UK-based researchers and shared predominantly by individuals, charities and support groups within the UK. Thus, most participants were UK nationals. Other nationalities listed were United States/American (13), Dutch (4), German (4), Irish (2), Australian (2), Swedish (1), New Zealand (1), Polish (1), and Ghanaian (1). There was a bias towards female respondents. In total, 240 respondents identified as female and only 25 as male. All participants identified as either female or male; none chose to self-describe. A total of 173 participants reported an ongoing experience of grief, while 92 reported a past experience.