Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Sandra E. Gramling


Previous research has produced heterogeneous findings regarding the effectiveness of expressive writing in reducing grief symptomatology among the bereaved (e.g., Collison, 2016; Lichtenthal & Cruess, 2010; Stroebe et al., 2006). The purpose of this study was to address these mixed results by exploring the effects and linguistic characteristics of a novel writing task (i.e., the acrostic poem) among bereaved undergraduates, using an innovative data analysis technique (i.e., Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count). The current study recruited 68 undergraduates who had lost a loved one. Participants were randomly assigned to write over multiple days using the acrostic poem, emotional disclosure prompt, or a control writing prompt. Consistent with previous research, the results indicated no significant differences in grief between conditions over time; however, there were key group differences in linguistic content. Further, while all participants endorsed improvements in grief one week following the intervention, the participants returned to baseline one month later. Patterns of writing, coping, religiosity/ spirituality, physical symptoms, and grief in bereaved emerging adults were also assessed. The results suggest that while expressive writing might not be an effective intervention for the bereaved, the content of writing might provide clinicians some insight on psychological and spiritual processes at play in bereaved emerging adults.


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