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Dissertation Title:

Making Meaning of Physical Objects After Loss


Erin Lindvall

Date, Time & Place:

July 31, 2015 at 12:30 pm
Studio, Lambert Road Campus


This research investigated the potential for healing grief within Winnicott’s transitional or potential space, constellated within the therapeutic container, by utilizing physical objects left behind after the loss of a significant other. The study employed a qualitative narrative research approach in gathering data on two participants who were grieving the loss of a loved one in order to determine whether significant physical objects left behind after a loss are useful guides to processing grief.
When working through grief physically, spiritually, and emotionally in the therapeutic container, clients may tend to ignore the environment to which they return every day, and this could create a critical impasse in their grief process. This depth psychological study was based on the proposition that through confrontation of physical objects left after a loss, a bridge is built reminding grieving individuals of the relationship with the deceased and that exercises to encourage engagement with the physical objects assist in the development of the narrative crucial for the healthy processing of grief. Clients are left with homes, closets, furniture, and jewelry, all of which remain after the loss of a loved one. How one handles these objects after loss is an important aspect of grief work. The research suggests that potential space, a place not fully within or outside of ourselves, is a place of healing. In this space, the imagination can work with the grief narrative and open individuals to experiences that connect them in a new way to their departed loved ones.
Too often, in short-term grief work, the environment is skimmed over and not allowed to contribute to the deep psychological reordering. This research study created a potential space for clients to bring literal or symbolic representations of their external environment for use as transitional objects in their grief story. The transitional objects were investigated through depth psychological exercises such as journaling, transference dialogues, active imagination, and collage with memory boxes. The study demonstrated that significant physical objects aid in making further meaning of the relationship with the deceased and support healing transformations.


All oral defense attendees must shuttle to the Lambert Road Campus from the Best Western Hotel in Carpinteria. Parking on campus is not available.

  • Program/Track/Year: Depth Psychology with Emphasis in Psychotherapy, Track T, 2008
  • Chair: Dr. Lionel Corbett
  • Reader: Dr. Kristi Walsh
  • External Reader: Dr. Jodie Steele
  • Keywords: