Embracing the End of Life: Coping Strategies among Staff and Volunteers at a Non-Profit Hospice Facility


Elizabeth Barna


  • Molly George, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice, California Lutheran University
  • Adina Nack, Professor of Sociology, Gender and Women's Studies, California Lutheran University

This study investigates coping strategies end-of-life caregivers use to deal with the stressful and unpredictable nature of their profession. My findings are based on data collected during a semester-long participant observation period at a non-profit hospice facility in the greater Los Angeles area. Over the course of my study, I found that caregivers cope in four main ways: 1) using comforting and inclusive language and terminology; 2) creating well-defined caregiving and respite spaces; 3) creating an environment conducive to emotional expression; and 4) finding symbolic objects and rituals that engender unity and closure. This study upholds existing literature that emphasizes the importance of finding language to articulate the complex emotions associated with death and dying. I also expand on this existing body of work through my description of additional coping strategies. My typology may be useful in identifying coping strategies among individuals in other stressful occupations and in producing better programs for those who wish to enter these professions.

Presented by:

Elizabeth Barna


Saturday, November 23, 2013


9:55 AM — 10:10 AM


Hoover 105

Presentation Type:

Oral Presentation