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A new model of grief: bereavement and biography

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Abstract:

The dominant model found in contemporary bereavement literature sees grief as a working through of emotion, the eventual goal being to move on and live without the deceased. This article challenges this model by analysing the own author's own experience of loss and by drawing together recent research papers which suggest an alternative, more sociological, model. Survivors typically want to talk about the deceased and to talk with others who knew him or her. Together they construct a story that places the dead within their lives, a story capable of enduring through time. The purpose of grief is therefore the construction of a durable biography that enables the living to integrate the memory of the dead into their ongoing lives; the process by which this is achieved is principally conversation with others who knew the deceased. The process hinges on talk more than feeling; and the purpose entails moving on with, as well as without, the deceased. This kind of grief process is particularly necessary in a late modern society whose members must continually re-create their own identity--but the detachment from tradition, place and kin that makes it necessary also makes it singularly difficult. The article concludes by outlining practical and research implications of the new model.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/713685822

Affiliations: Department of Sociology, University of Reading, United Kingdom

Publication date: January 1, 1996

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