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Mourning, Meaning, and Memory: Individual, Communal, and Cultural Narration of Grief

  • Robert A. NeimeyerEmail author
  • Dennis Klass
  • Michael Robert Dennis

Abstract

In this chapter we argue that grief or mourning is not simply an interior or intrapsychic process, although that is how it has been defined for most of the past century. Instead we describe grief in terms of the processes by which meanings are found, appropriated or assembled at least as fully between people as within them. In this view, mourning is an interaction between interior, interpersonal, communal, and cultural narratives. We argue, then, that mourning is a situated interpretive and communicative activity charged with establishing the meaning of the deceased’s life and death at three levels. First, we look at psychological research on individual self-narratives that organize life experience into plot structures with some level of consistency over time. Second, we explore public communication, including eulogies, grief accounts in popular literature, and elegies. All these discourses construct the identity of the deceased as they were, and as they are now in the individual and communal continuation of bonds with the dead. Third, we consider different cultural contexts in order to understand the rules of grieving and to see how grief is policed. Individuals, in their grief, conform to or actively challenge the dominant cultural narratives that script the “proper” performance of grief in a manner that is coherent with the prevailing social order. That is, the meanings people find through the situated interpretive and communicative activity of mourners must either be congruent with the meanings that undergird the larger context or represent an active form of resistance against them.

Keywords

Meaning reconstruction Communal narratives Grief accounts Social construction Continuing bond Eulogies Bereavement theory 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert A. Neimeyer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dennis Klass
    • 2
    • 3
  • Michael Robert Dennis
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MemphisMemphisUSA
  2. 2.Webster UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  3. 3.TruroUSA
  4. 4.Department of Communication and TheatreEmporia State UniversityEmporiaUSA

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