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Intertwined lives: reconstructing life after the death of my son: an autoethnography of a pastoral counsellor and mother.

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Through the Triquetra as metaphor for intertwined lives, this dissertation seeks to demonstrate how the loss of a child impacts on the personal, family and professional life of a pastoral counsellor or minister. The research question was developed from integrating my personal experience as pastoral counsellor and mother who have lost a child with the narratives of other pastoral counsellors and ministers who have lost a child. A first-hand account is thereby provided from the participants’ perspective of their experiences of grief and loss. This also provides a narrative to the academic world and other pastoral counsellors and ministers to study and evaluate. The qualitative research approaches used were autoethnography and semi-structured interviews based on questionnaires. Participants were obtained through purposive sampling, coupled with snowball sampling. To keep the voices and perspectives of the pastoral counsellors and ministers in focus, the Listening Guide of the Voice Centred Relational Method (VCRM) was used as analytical tool for the participants’ interview data. Creative Analytical Practices (CAP) was used to analyse the autoethnographic data, which consists of different texts, prose, journal entries, poetry, photos and pictures, diagrams and maps. What emerged from this research study was that the pastoral counsellors and ministers were often feeling disenfranchised, ‘being silenced’ by those around them. Participants responded by keeping feelings of grief and loss to themselves, with husband and wife often keeping their grief from one another for fear of opening each other’s wounds. Their faith in God provided comfort and a way to cope with the loss of their children. They indicate growth from the trauma of their loss when they resumed their professional lives while still working through their grief and managing their vulnerability whilst counselling and ministering. The narrative research design may provide other bereaved parents with an accessible resource and add another dimension to the current body of academic knowledge, by illuminating theory with lived experience. Writing an autoethnographic account of my grief experience as pastoral counsellor and mother who have lost her son, contributes to the body of bereavement literature. Adding the narratives of the other participants, strengthened this contribution


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.