Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name



English Language, Literature, and Creative Writing

First Advisor

Holbrook, Susan


grief, healing, poetry, process, sister, structure




All of us face moments in our lives when our perspective of the world changes. One of the most drastic ways to experience this change is through the death of someone you have known and loved for your whole life. On September 6, 2014, I experienced that change when my little sister Emily passed away suddenly. Ever since that day, I have been trying to restructure my life so that I can function and contribute to society. My thesis is about this struggle. Through 80 poems that I have written, my creative thesis tells the story of my grief. I am not demonstrating how to grieve, though I am demonstrating how varied and uneven and unending the process is. Using psychoanalytic theory, I ask myself whether or not I am grieving correctly. Inspired by literature in which form communicates as keenly as content, I have created a looping structure in which the reader of my work can choose, after each poem they read, up to three options to continue on with. This structure might suggest an element of free will in the grieving process, but in reality the choice is an illusion because the options are limited and follow disorienting, unpredictable paths.One consequence of this looping structure is the reader’s inevitable re-encountering, therefore the repetition, of some poems. My intention is to practice insistence, a method of writing that Gertrude Stein pursued to change the meaning of a word or phrase (or in my thesis, a poem) by repeating it until the reader saw past traditional or clichéd meanings. This insistence helps generate multiple layers within my work as a whole, and reflects my pursuit of expressing my relationship with Emily and my grief over her death as unique, but still accessible to readers. With my personal grieving experience comes constant ruminating, and with each reader’s different choices, they experience different objects of obsession, with changing views of a single poem every time they return to it after venturing further into some of the others. My hope for this thesis is to show how isolating and overwhelming grief can be, its non-linear, recursive nature, and how varied each individual experience is. Although Emily was little in size, the effect both her life and death have had on me is reflected in the complicated looping structure and emotional content of my thesis, A Little Miss. I dedicate my thesis and all of the time and research that has gone into it, to my little sister Emily Bernauer.