Date of Award


Degree Type

Honors College Thesis

Academic Program

Psychology BS



First Advisor

Leslie Anderson, Ph.D

Advisor Department

Child and Family Studies


Despite the recent exposure that police violence in America has received, of the related research that has been conducted, very little of it discusses the grief experience of victims’ families. The most significant insight given to that experience lies in the interviews of those family members that typically take place shortly after the tragedy. However, once the cameras and news stations leave, these families and communities must grapple with tremendous loss, oftentimes with limited support. Given that police violence impacts Black and people of color (POC) significantly more than their White counterparts, the aim of this research was to explore the Black grief experience, particularly of victims’ mothers. Using an intersectional lens, which considered how race and gender influences grief experiences, this research sought to center the Black maternal experience surrounding grief when impacted by police violence. Using thematic analysis, three primary themes were identified to help give insight as to how these mothers grieve and what impacts their healing processes. Five Black American mothers participated in 60–90-minute interviews describing their children’s violent encounters with police, preparatory measures they may have been taking to protect them from police harm, and their experiences or interests in advocacy work after the incident with their child. Some police encounters were fatal, and some involved serious physical and psychological injury. Mothers expressed intense feelings of grief, regardless of the severity of the incident and the time that had since passed. While mothers had distinct ways of coping, there were also some commonalities of their grief experiences, namely the desire for systemic change and accountability of officers, and the desire for no other mothers and families to join their ‘involuntary club’, as some have v colloquially described their unfortunate experience. Given the increase and hypervisibility of police violence in recent years, better understanding the complex process of grief experienced by these mothers and their families has important research and clinical implications.

Included in

Psychology Commons