Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Nursing

Dissertation Committee

Patricia A. Roth, EdD, RN, Chair; Jane M. Georges, PhD, RN, Member; Patti Herring, PhD, RN, Member


death & dying, end of life care, Grounded theory, nursing, Shared Presence, spouses, widows


There is limited research on female spouses and their end-of-life experience with their dying husbands. The purpose of this study was to explore wives' perceptions of hospital and hospice care at their husbands' end-of-life. The grounded theory method was used for this study. Data were collected over thirteen months and then transcribed and coded for meaning. Participants were 25 elderly widows (62-103 years of age) with 19 husbands' deaths in a hospice setting and 6 in the hospital. They were widowed from 6 months to 10 years after the death of their spouses. They were good informants with excellent recollections about their husbands' death. Going through this journey with their husbands, widows experienced awareness of impending death, forming connections, and realizing sense of self. Although present in distinct categories, these three categories also overlap with each other and the relationship between them forms the emerging theory. These categories point to the more abstract core phenomenon of being there. All these pieces emerge into a theory of Shared Presence: Caring for a Dying Spouse at the end-of-life. It was in this time and in this place for this, to occur, the transition to the end-of-life for the wife and husband. One implication for further research is to explore the value of the wife's human touch for her husband at the end-of-life. Also there is some indication that laughter and humor could be of benefit for widows during the bereavement process and this could be further explored. Cultural and religious differences could be of significance as well so that will be another direction in forthcoming studies. Finally, it would be of interest to study if timing of death had any impact on the grief process.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access



Included in

Nursing Commons