Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Over 1 million American women experience the unexpected loss of a pregnancy each year (Ventura, Abma, Mosher, & Henshaw, 2009). The care and support they receive from family members, friends, and health care providers is often inadequate. Despite nearly 3 decades of research, very little is known about women's experiences of loss and the trajectory of perinatal bereavement. This classic grounded theory study was undertaken to discover a substantive theory of maternal perinatal bereavement, which was empirically derived from the words of the participants.

Data were collected from interviews with 19 women who had experienced the loss of a pregnancy, and analyzed using the classic grounded theory method. Results indicated that maternal perinatal bereavement follows a 5-stage pattern that involves experiencing the pregnancy, losing the baby, bearing the burden, working through the pain, and transcending the suffering. Each of these stages involves several subprocesses that were derived from the data. The core category, which explains most of the action in the theory, was named "pushing on" and describes how the women managed to moved beyond the overwhelming pain of the loss and eventually experience transcendence.

Findings of this study help unify and explain previous research by providing an empirically derived depiction of the pathway through maternal perinatal bereavement. The results of this study are useful for education purposes, developing future research studies on perinatal bereavement, policy making, and advocacy for bereaved mothers.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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