Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Communication Studies

Department or School/College

Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Stephen Yoshimura

Commitee Members

Heather Voorhees, Daisy Rooks


grief, humor, Benign Violation Theory, interpersonal relationships


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities


Death is not commonly considered a humorous topic; however, bereaved individuals often joke about their loss. The jokes grievers tell while grieving have been overlooked within research, resulting in a limited understanding of how this communication impacts those hearing it. This research sought to eliminate that gap by building an understanding of the interpersonal effects of grief-based humor through the lens of Benign Violation Theory. Twenty-two individuals participated in semi-structured interviews that revolved around whether humor could be found in grief and how this humor affected their relationship with the bereaved. The interviews identified that when a bereaved individual uses tenets Benign Violations (such as alternative meanings to a joke’s subject matter) humor can be found within jokes about loss. Further, the participants primarily felt closer to the bereaved individual through an increase of trust and value within their relationship and newfound ease of communication surrounding the loss.



© Copyright 2022 Miranda B. Henrich