An Anthropology of Bereavement
A Sociocultural Analysis of Parental Grief and Mourning
Principal Investigator: Mary Ellen Macdonald – McGill University Centre for Research on Children and Families
Co-Investigators: L. Mitchell, P. Stephenson, & Susan Cadell
Funding Source: Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada
Summary: This program of research seeks to understand, culturally and socially, what is the “bereaved parent” in Canadian society today, and what are the corresponding implications for the health and well-being of this population.
Health professionals are encouraged to practice medicine according to the best scientific evidence. Increasingly, bereavement care is being recognized as an essential component in interdisciplinary palliative care models, the goal being to help the bereaved arrive at a healthy adjustment to their loss. Studies show that while bereavement programs and practices may be clinically and intuitively based, they are rarely theoretically or empirically evidence-based. The clinical models and theories upon which bereavement interventions are designed have not been proven effective. Some evidence suggests that bereaved parents may derive little or no benefit from bereavement counselling, and that further harm may occur from the interventions.
Research Questions: How is “parental bereavement” socially and culturally constructed in our society? What are the corresponding implications for the health and well-being of these parents? How do these constructions affect or impact the health and social services available to this population? This is a three year study. It will involve the following three phases:
Phase I (Year One) is a theoretical study that will seek to understand culturally and socially the place of “the bereaved parent” in Canadian society. A To do so, we will explore both dominant and diverse ideas about parental bereavement as they are articulated/represented in professional and popular texts and images. We will deconstruct contemporary representations of parental bereavement found in literature (medical, allied health, social science, humanities, fine arts) as well as public policies, popular and lay discourses (literature, film/media, internet) focusing on Canadian content.
Phase II (Year Two) will include an empirical study designed to better understand bereaved parents vis-ŕ-vis their lived experience of being bereaved. This phase will involve interviewing bereaved parents as well as health care professionals working in bereavement fields in Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia. One of our analytical goals is to explore the ways Phase I data does and does not match what parents have experienced.
Phase III (Year Three) is centered on a participatory symposium. It will involve convening a group of bereavement “experts,” that is, clinicians, researchers and parents themselves to scrutinize findings from Phase I and Phase II. Dissemination will follow, targeted at academic, clinical and policy audiences.
Currently, bereavement interventions lack an evidence base to support their effectiveness. By systematically examining both dominant and diverse understandings of parental bereavement, this study is well positioned to contribute to building both a theoretical and clinical evidence base for the field of bereavement studies and intervention. In so doing, this study will provide an important contribution to the interdisciplinary world of palliative care research and practice.
For more information on this project please see our contact information, call 1-800-810-0721, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org