Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 2015


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Clinical Psychology


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Will Adams

Committee Member

Roger Brooke

Committee Member

Russell Walsh


Social sciences, Psychology, Health and environmental sciences, Drawing, Imaginal, Invisible, Miscarriage, Perinatal loss, Phenomenology


This is a qualitative study that used an innovative, phenomenological, hermeneutic, imaginal method to explore the implicit, embodied, and imaginal dimensions of three women's lived experiences of perinatal loss and its aftermath. The study has a dual, but overlapping, focus on a holistic elaboration of women's lived experience of perinatal loss that includes these less articulated dimensions of experience, as well as a focus on the process and implications of the innovative method itself as a research approach. Findings are presented accordingly, addressing both new understandings about the lived phenomenon of miscarriage, and foregrounding the working method through which those findings emerged.

The innovative, hermeneutic, imaginal method was developed in response to the existing literature's articulation of miscarriage as a culturally invisible phenomenon that is shrouded in silence, and the researcher's perceived gap in previous methods' capacities to access and phenomenologically describe what is typically unseen and unsaid. The researcher drew upon post-post modern phenomenological approaches which attempt to articulate the tension between the "more than words can say" and felt bodily senses, the dialogal tradition of phenomenological research, art therapy research, as well as the traditions of active imagination, contemplative practices, and contemporary gestalt psychotherapy. The method attempted to illuminate the implicit, unformulated, and embodied aspects of women's experience through a contemplative process that involved close tracking of participants' spoken testimony through the modality of drawing, followed by a dialogical conversation with each participant, in which the imaginal dimension of experience was engaged with in a mood of shared reverie.

The study included two participants who had miscarriages before 12 weeks gestation and one participant who had a stillbirth at 37 weeks gestation. Several novel aspects of these women's lived experience of prenatal loss and its aftermath were articulated, from the subtle processes of grief over time, to women's complicated embodied experience of womb trauma, to the experience of miscarriage as an interruption of the pregnant gesture and as a form of psychic dismemberment. The imaginal and dialogal engagement also evoked profound contact with "invisible" aspects of participants' psychic life as it emerged and receded in the transitional space that the images co-created, which further pointed to complex profiles of experience and meanings. The contributions and significant shadows of the method as a process of immersion and differentiation are discussed vis-à-vis qualitative research and the human science tradition, and the method is re-considered as offering possible ways of working in a psychotherapy context.