Caryn Whitacre, Psy.D., is a 2017 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Santa Barbara.

Dissertation Committee:

  • Salvador Treviño, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Allen Biship, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Cynthia Anne Hale, Ph.D., External Expert


Bereavement, grief, music, Jazz, funerals, phenomenological, New Orleans, Jazz Funeral, African Americans, Rituals, Celebrations, Louisiana

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This qualitative phenomenological study set out to explore and understand the subjective lived experience of the Jazz Funeral ritual of New Orleans, Louisiana. This dissertation was guided by two principal research questions: 1) What is the lived experience of participation in the Jazz Funeral ritual? and 2) What elements of the Jazz Funeral are beneficial to bereavement as reported by the subjects? Research data were collected and arranged through the utilization of phenomenological research protocol. By recognizing that people are the experts of their own lived experience and listening to participants describe their lived experiences of this ritual, this researcher was able to construct knowledge as to what it means to participate in the Jazz Funeral ritual. For the participants, the ritual’s significance could change within and throughout the funeral procession and the meaning of the Jazz Funeral continued to change over time. Participants reported that collective grieving added to their experience of the Jazz Funeral, as it provided a sense of dignity and respect within the community and between community members. Participants said that the Jazz Funeral ritual, framed in tradition and meaning, has changed with the passage of time, but the healing aspect provided by the music has nevertheless remained consistent. Participants also reported that ritual participation allowed them to maintain a sense of hope in the midst of loss, while providing a feeling of togetherness that strengthened the community. Finally, through listening to the words and experiences of participants, this researcher was able to understand the experience of grieving as an active process that can be contained and processed through ritual. The meaningful experience of ritual participation and its celebratory and communal elements come together in the service of facilitating grief. The electronic version of this dissertation is available free at Ohiolink ETD Center,


ORCID: 0000-0002-9541-7540