Widows' Breath: Grief Fractures

Date of Award

January 2020

Degree Type

Closed Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


English and Theatre

First Advisor

R. Dean Johnson

Department Affiliation


Second Advisor

Nancy Jensen

Department Affiliation



“Based on a true story” applies to this collection of grief fractures. Each is based on a thread of someone’s true story of death and loss. A combination of autobiographic fiction and speculative non-fiction, these fractures create a thematic braiding of grief as they explore the human survival of significant loss. Dichotomies include the narrative voice as both inside the experience and outside, grief survivor yet physician observer, Native American and Far East ancestral energy, resistance to the ultimate acceptance of the path no longer linear but more as a cubist painting.

Grief and trauma writing teeters on the ledge where the truth shatters, resulting in pieces of unreality fusing into an entity that may barely resemble the former self. This manuscript is set in Appalachian Kentucky with nature imagery wherein the place and its culture frame each protagonist’s exploration. As they deconstruct their experience of grief, vacillate through past and present thinking, memorializing the lost one while struggling toward a new identity, grieve sexuality without the partner, fight addiction, relive child trauma, and limp through mental illness they exist in breath-by-breath survival.

The intended audience is anyone experiencing death and separation, cultural or environmental grief, or with an intent to find a balanced life after loss.

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