Term of Award

Fall 2023

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading

Committee Chair

Marla Morris

Committee Member 1

John Weaver

Committee Member 2

Robert Lake

Committee Member 3

Rebecca Harper

Committee Member 3 Email



This study offers a personalized account of the complexities of providing care for seriously ill family members, highlighting the scope of caregiving beyond the usual descriptors of stress and burden to an acknowledgment that caregiving can be a traumatic event. Using as a foundation the writings of Sigmund Freud (1917, 1958, 1961, 1963) and the work of more recent trauma theorists (Caruth, 1995, 2014, 2016; Felman and Laub, 1991; Herman, 1997; van der Kolk, 1996, 2014), strong connections are established between caregiving and trauma.

Using myself as both the subject and the researcher within the social context of caregiving provided the impetus for this study. Through an insider’s vantage point, I chronicled and traced my own caregiving experiences using autoethnography as the methodology. This genre of qualitative research brings the reader closer to the subculture studied through the experiences of the author (Bochner, 2007, 2012; Ellis, 1991, 2004, 2018). Data gathering consisted of a reflexive journal, photographs, memories, and reflective analysis. These research tools were used to capture my caregiving experiences during my daughter’s and husband’s terminal illness diagnoses through the writing of a personal memoir. My role as a spousal and parental caregiver was a critical part of the overall analysis, along with the impact of these responsibilities on the already stressful role of being a teacher.

This personalized analysis serves as a potential foundation for further studies to be written by and for family caregivers, in a much-needed dialogue on the impact of these traumatic experiences. It is essential to include their voices within illness narratives, for both academic and social advantage. Additionally, acknowledging their contributions to patient care is vital to a greater understanding and appreciation of the work they perform.

Research Data and Supplementary Material


Available for download on Saturday, October 28, 2028