Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Communication Studies

First Advisor

Erin Willer

Second Advisor

Alejandro Cerón

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Suter

Fourth Advisor

Mary Claire

Fifth Advisor

Santhosh Chandrashekar


Art, Autoethnography, Baby loss, Compassion and empathy, Healing, Heath communication


The dissertation, “On Healing HeARTs: A Saudi Woman’s Perspective on the Experience of Baby Loss,” investigates how Shia Saudi bereaved mothers create meaning and make sense of their experience of baby loss. It explores the importance of art and compassion in the healing process. Using a multi-method design that includes art-based methods and autoethnography, I narrate my own experience of baby loss. The study relies on theories of sense-making and constructivism to interpret my findings. Looking at the experience from a unique cultural lens enables the readers and health providers to comprehend how certain cultural factors contribute to both the suffering and healing process. The study expands previous research and contributes to the body of knowledge of communication studies by exploring a fundamental component of the human condition: death. Four themes emerged from the research: continuing bonds, loss as an opportunity for growth, living a new normal, and identity reconstruction. I argue that art and compassion have the potential to help women in their healing process.

The project contributes to family and health communication by advocating for the importance of compassion and expressive arts to facilitate the healing process, while addressing a taboo topic: the experience of baby death and loss. The study has the potential to advance women’s health and patient-centered communication by exploring the bereavement experiences of women from the East. The project aims to challenge and change the status quo of lacking compassion through highlighting the importance of empowerment, meaning-making, connection, identity reconstruction, and emotional expression for bereaved women to bring comfort and facilitate healing.

The research was funded by fellowships from the University of Denver’s Communication Department in 2020 and 2021.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Alaa Saeed Alkhalaf


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

233 pgs