School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling (EdD)


Tracy Baker


involuntary childlessness, ambiguous loss, disenfranchised grief




In society the grief associated with involuntary childlessness is often overlooked, minimized, and ignored. This qualitative phenomenological study explored the disenfranchised grief of involuntary childless women using the theoretical framework of ambiguous loss and disenfranchised grief to show how involuntary childlessness is an invisible loss that produces grief which is oftentimes invalidated. This study was guided by three research questions: (a) what is the lived experience of grief of involuntary childless women, (b) how can involuntary childless women grieve their losses in an environment where they experience disenfranchised grief, and (c) how do involuntary childless women make meaning of their lives considering their experience of not having children? The sample size for this study was 10 involuntary childless women who never conceived or never achieved a live birth. Data was collected using open-ended semi structured interview questions in an online/virtual setting utilizing the video conference platform Zoom and analyzed using Moustakas (1994) transcendental phenomenology. The findings of this study described the common experience of disenfranchised grief of involuntary childless women. Six main themes emerged from the data analysis: (a) lack of acknowledgement and support, (b) emotional issues, (c) questioning faith, (d) family tension, (e) coping mechanisms and (f) meaning making. This study is significant to the counseling and mental health professions as it informs those who are working with involuntary childless women concerning their loss and grief experiences. Also, this study contributes to the gap in the literature on the disenfranchised grief that involuntary childless women experience.

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