Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Glinda Rawls

Second Advisor

Dr. Alan Hovestadt

Third Advisor

Dr. Gary Bischof

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Robert Powell


Infertility, miscarriage, reproductive loss, disenfranchised grief, ambiguous loss, qualitative


Infertility and miscarriage are reproductive losses that often produce grief reactions in affected women. This phenomenological study investigated the grief experiences of infertility and miscarriage through the ambiguous loss and disenfranchised grief frameworks in order to better understand both the obscurity of reproductive loss and how the resulting grief may be invalidated.

Sixteen women volunteered to participate in this study and each fell into one of the following three categories: women affected by infertility without miscarriage (4); women affected by miscarriage without infertility (4); and women affected by infertility and miscarriage (8). A phenomenological hermeneutic approach was utilized to uncover the meaning of the participants’ grief experiences related to infertility and miscarriage and the themes that emerged were the result of a recursive process of thematic analysis. Themes that related to the ambiguity of the loss included: (a) loss of normative life experiences; and (b) a more personal loss. Themes that related to how the grief is disenfranchised included: (a) stigma leads to silence; (b) a lack of clear grieving rituals; and (c) elements of insensitive encounters. Finally, themes that related to improving counseling services for affected women included: (a) further training; (b) increasing access to appropriate resources; and (c) characteristics of validating support.

Participants indicated that most people acknowledge that reproductive loss produces grief, however; what they believe can be improved is how other individuals understand the pervasiveness of their pain. Implications for the counseling profession and areas for future research are discussed.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access