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Continuing Bonds in the Body: Body Memory and Experiencing the Loss of a Caregiver During Adolescence

Abstract

Continuing bonds with deceased persons is discussed in grief literature, especially in children who are grieving the death of a parent or caregiver. The body is often described as important to the experience of grief, yet few studies have investigated the bodily experience of grief or continuing bonds in children, outside the context of pathology. The objective of this phenomenological research study was to describe the experience of body memory in those who lost a parent or caregiver in childhood or adolescence. Three individuals participated in a movement elicitation followed by a semi-structured interview. Textual data were analyzed using Moustakas’ (1994) phenomenology, revealing nine universal themes. Five themes pertained to the nature of body memory: a sense of reliving the experience; body memory being foreign but familiar; the experience of age in body memory; embodying leads to understanding; and the immediacy and frequency of body memory. Two themes described specific body sensations: a sense of falling and oscillation between opposing states. The remaining two themes connected the body to emotions: the emotional charge of body memory moves toward resilience and the relationship between tension and emotion. Implications for future study and integration of thematic findings in grief work in dance/movement therapy are provided.

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Correspondence to Sara Anne Simpkins.

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Simpkins, S.A., Myers-Coffman, K. Continuing Bonds in the Body: Body Memory and Experiencing the Loss of a Caregiver During Adolescence. Am J Dance Ther 39, 189–208 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10465-017-9260-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10465-017-9260-6

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