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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Veterans' experiences following the violent death of a close comrade Olson , Trevor Ole


A qualitative, phenomenological research design was used to investigate the experience of coming to terms with the violent death of a comrade, for male war veterans who had participated in overseas deployments. The purpose of the study was to describe veterans’ accounts of their experiences in adjusting to, coming to terms with, and making sense of the deaths of their close comrades and friends. Eleven veterans who had experienced the death of a close comrade volunteered to describe their experiences in unstructured, in-depth, audio-taped interviews. A thematic analysis of the essential meaning structures of participants’ experiences of coming to terms with the death of their comrade by violent means, reflected their initial experience of the loss, and how they lived with, and processed the loss over time. The four themes common to their initial experience of the loss included: 1) shock, disbelief and the search for explanations; 2) helplessness, retribution and rage; 3) inhibited grief; and, 4) a sense of responsibility for the loss and for letting their friend down. The four themes common to living with and processing the loss over time included: 1) protracted and unfinished grief; 2) alienation, mistrust, and disconnection; 3) existential reflection; and 4) working through the grief and trauma. These themes were confirmed and refined through validation interviews with the participants. These findings are discussed as they relate to, and expand upon, literature related to bereavement after violent loss, homicide, and in particular, the experience of combat losses for veterans.

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