DATE: Tuesday, January 22, 2013
TIME: 1:00 p.m
PLACE: Studio, Lambert Road campus
CANDIDATE: Astrid H. Johnson
DISSERTATION TITLE: "The Golden Omphalos"
PROGRAM-TRACK/YEAR: PhD-T; 2007
CHAIR: Dr. Mike Denney
READER: Dr. Mark Montijo
EXTERNAL READER: Dr. Carol McRae
Johnson, A. (2012). The Golden Omphalos (Doctoral dissertation, Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2012)
This dissertation investigates the lived experience of mothers whose sons have died suddenly and unexpectedly. It explores the mothers’ inner and outer realities – their reactions, feelings, processes, and inner truths that have been revealed through their sons’ deaths. In particular, this dissertation seeks to explore whether there exists an on-going relationship after death, and what the nature of these relationships might be.
The research was based on a phenomenological, heuristic methodology developed by Clark Moustakas. The dissertation also looks to the organic method that holds the work sacred. Seven mothers plus the researcher, who also lost her son to sudden death, participated in this study through conversational interviews. The sons were invited to participate as co-researchers in this work, their voices from beyond welcomed and held sacred.
The findings conclude that mothers who have lost their sons to sudden death experience grief differently than one might experience from the death of a loved one, a person not one’s child. The mother’s grief is chronic, lifelong, and needs to be understood as such and held as a separate grief. The mother-son connection reaches powerfully beyond the grave. This research has shown that mothers continue in relationship with their deceased sons throughout their lives, through a divine connection the author has termed Golden Omphalos, the sacred umbilicus that continues to unite beyond death.
It is within this rich and transformative terrain inhabited by mothers and their deceased sons that the researcher has lived and breathed the reality of these mothers’ experiences.
This research has implications for psychotherapy as we hold the intensity and extent of the mother’s grief, a grief not washed away with time. It is pain that she bears daily. It is also filled with richness as the world of spirit has opened up to her through her continuing connection with her child. The sons speak and continue to be present to their mothers. They are not gone from her life. The life of the soul becomes enriched through this opening into another dimension as real as the world in which we live. Please note: All oral defense attendees must shuttle from the Best Western Hotel in Carpinteria.