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Losing one's spouse, Transformation of the self and the role of writing/Locked in - Daring to break free

Den Elzen, Katrin (2012) Losing one's spouse, Transformation of the self and the role of writing/Locked in - Daring to break free. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis comprises two components: a dissertation and a memoir. The dissertation focuses on the role of writing in relation to the experience of traumatic loss. It argues that expressive writing is a powerful tool to resolve grief following such loss. The thesis investigates how narrative and writing assist in the resolution of grief. It contributes to research through a narrative analysis of the memoir "To have and to hold" (1997). The analysis examines the text's representations of Walter Mikac's shattered sense of self and worldview, following the loss of his wife and daughters in Australia's worst mass shooting in Port Arthur, Tasmania, in 1996. The dissertation examines how the narrative facilitates the re-building of coherence in Mikac's life through memory, reflection, and finding meaning; and it analyses the text's narrative structure in relation to the healing benefits of writing.

The second component of the thesis is a work of creative non-fiction. The submitted section, Locked in – Breaking Free, is the beginning of my memoir, which depicts the illness and death of my husband Mark at the age of 42 in 2004. The submitted section is approximately 15,500 words long. The section will be followed (in the final memoir) by chapters which will discuss Mark's eight-month illness, his death, my identity crisis as a widow and single mother, my transformation, personal growth and the rebuilding of my family life, and the difficulty of re-living Mark's illness and death in a medical negligence court case. I have found meaning in Mark's death by becoming a palliative care spokesperson and in bearing witness by writing the memoir. The section submitted gives a detailed description of Mark‟s sudden illness, the unfolding of his treatment, and the alternating hope and devastation. The memoir includes flashbacks to the beginnings of our early life together. The title refers to the fact that Mark was locked in his body, unable to move or speak, and to my own "breaking free" in terms of the rebuilding of my life, family and self.

Publication Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Supervisor: Owen, Christine
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