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Creating voices : losing (my) mother and the poetic process of grief Peters, Angela M.

Abstract

My mother died on January 1st, 1995, when I was 28 years old. Over the last nine years I discovered my voice through poetry, exploring my grief, wording my experience. The purpose of this study was to explore the process of my grief and my transformation over the nine years since her death. The following question guided my inquiry: How do the writing and the reading of poetry both reveal and transform the self with regards to the experience of mother-loss? I used a method of autoethnography - the study of the culture of the self - as a means of voicing my personal grief, documenting my poetic journey, and reflecting on the process of grief. Specifically, I used as a model the personal loss narratives of Carolyn Ellis (1993, 1995, 1997) and her technique of emotional introspection (1991a, 1991b, 1996, 1998). Five themes emerged from a thematic analysis of my poems: Questioning and A Search for Meaning, Holding On and Letting Go, Connection, Breath and Body, and Voice. Within these five themes I discovered the following findings: that grieving is an evolving, living process that does not seem to end; that relationships with deceased loved ones can and do change and grow over time; that grief is manifested viscerally; that inherent within grief and loss is the potential for the gift of transformation; and that this potential for transformation is deeply connected with discovering a voice within grief and expressing that voice to an audience. It is my hope that by sharing my own experience and voicing my own grief, my words will encourage the voice(s) of others in the silences which surround death. I invite the voice(s) of the reader, the audience (you) to respond, to interpret, to feel (my) words in your body, in the spirit of your own words.

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