"The grief never goes away" : a study of meaning reconstruction and long-term grief in parents' narratives of perinatal loss
Willick, Myrna Lani
The purpose of this dissertation was to explore the experience of long term grief following a perinatal loss. In particular, the processes of meaning reconstruction and self-changes stemming from perinatal loss were explored by listening to parents’ in-depth narratives of their experiences of loss and grief. A narrative methodology was used, based on a constructivist epistemology that suggests that people are storytellers by nature and we attempt to organize and make sense of our life experiences by constructing coherent narratives. Participants were 4 couples and 8 individuals whose losses occurred 1 to 35 years before the interview. Interviews followed a reflexive-dyadic interview model. Analysis of the narratives was approached in two ways: First, a voice-centered relational approach was used for initial interpretation and identification of prevalent “voices” in the stories. Second, five of the stories were written as “evocative narratives”, which served as a way of incorporating the author’s personal experience of perinatal loss, as well as to evoke an empathic understanding of the experience of perinatal loss. The interpretation and discussion of the stories focused on meaning-making that was evident on both an individual level as well as across the larger group of participants. In particular, meaning-making influences and strategies were identified, including influences of the medical establishment and social networks which either served to disenfranchise parents’ losses or to comfort and ease parents in their grief. The impact of meaning-making on long-term grief was considered, as well as parents’ reports of positive and negative self-changes that emerged from their struggle with grief. The unique contribution of this project lies in its elaboration of the meaning reconstruction process in the context of perinatal loss; its demonstration of both positive and negative self-changes in a group of perinatally-bereaved parents; its exploration of grief several years to decades following a perinatal loss; its inclusion of the researchers’ self as both an additional source of data and as a “validity check” on the presentation and interpretation of participants’ stories; and the use of “evocative narratives” to evoke an empathic understanding of a historically disenfranchised form of loss.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
CommitteeStewart, Norma J.; Lawson, Karen L.; Gilbert, Kathleen; Chartier, Brian M.
Copyright DateMarch 2006