Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


The principle of normalization requires that persons with mental retardation (MR) be encouraged to participate in the death and dying rituals which help people process the death of a loved one. It is widely argued that persons with MR would benefit from such inclusion, but little research exists to confirm this, or even to determine the degree to which persons with MR are encouraged to or discouraged from participating in death and dying rituals.

The purpose of this study was to identify how adults with MR are being included in death and dying events and rituals. It also adds to the knowledge base about death and dying related to members of this population. The methods employed for collecting data included a structured interview with people with MR and quantitative survey results. The questions were designed to elicit information about inclusion in the rituals surrounding death (i.e. wake, funeral, burial) from the participants who discussed a death loss with the interviewer and their satisfaction level with how these events were handled. One item was an open-ended question, whereby the participants were asked how a difficult encounter like the death of someone they loved and cared about could be made more satisfactory (e.g. comfortable, inclusive) for them in the future.

Ratings of satisfaction were analyzed descriptively and quantitatively. That is, means and standard deviations were reported. Interview data were examined for themes qualitatively. The conclusion was reached that the participants in the interviews were satisfied with their inclusion in the rituals and other grief, mourning and bereavement activities of their family members and friends at the time of a death.