MA Counselling Psychology Thesis Defense
The Labyrinth of Grief: A Phenomenological Exploration of Turning Toward Loss
by: Janelle K. Drisner
Supervisor: Dr. Derrick Klaassen
Second Reader: Dr. Mihaela Launeanu
External Examiner: Dr. Darcy Harris
Exam Chair: Dr. Bart Begalka
*Feature: As a way to deepen her thesis findings, Janelle created paintings of her participants' stories surrounding their experiences of turning toward their losses. Attendees are welcome to come early to view these paintings on display before the thesis presentation commences.
This study explored the Existential Analytic grieving activity of turning toward loss. Four bereaved women, each bereaved of either a parent, spouse, child, or sibling, participated in one-hour interviews. The guiding research question for this study was “what is the lived experience of turning toward loss?” In order to understand how participants encountered and engaged with their grief as it is lived through, a hermeneutic phenomenological method was employed. Through the participants’ lived experience descriptions, eight thematic meaning structures were revealed: (a) an encounter with death, (b) surrendering to grief, (c) choosing community, (d) permitting and pursuing grief, (e) transformation of self, (f) rooting in relationship, (g) embracing life, and (h) the ground of faith. From the thematic meanings emerged the metaphor of a labyrinth of grief, which represented the various paradoxes that participants experienced while grieving. The metaphor of labyrinth also signified that turning toward loss was essentially deeply spiritual and transformative for the participants. In describing how they turned toward their losses, the participants highlighted the inherent relational and dialogical nature of grieving. In turning toward their losses through dialogue and relationship with themselves, others, and the Divine, the participants moved from devastation and surrealism to a place of authenticity and wholeness.