Bereaved bonding: Materially-mediated parent-child relationships following major loss

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

However distressing and disorienting grief is for adults, it can be even more challenging for children. This may be their first experience of overwhelming negative emotions, and it may also be the first time that they bear witness to adult suffering. Children may find themselves treated differently by the people around them, and parts of their familiar, routine, everyday life may be significantly disrupted or changed forever. For toddlers and very young children, all this devastation may occur before they can articulate or even understand what has happened to their family.

A key principle of child bereavement practice is that ‘children must be seen, and can best be helped, embedded in their families’ (Van Horn 2006:974). Many studies highlight the importance of parents and carers in supporting children’s grief, but they are also grieving and may be struggling with changes in their financial circumstances, roles and relationships. They may have less time, energy or patience for their children, even as they worry about being “good enough” grieving parents (Bugge et al 2014). Although the parents in Bugge et al’s study underestimated the influence of their own moods and actions on their preschool children, they valued their children’s concern for them, appreciating that “sleeping together, sitting closer and giving each other hugs filled both parent’s and children’s needs”.

This paper explores parent-child relationships following the death of a close family member, drawing on books and blogs written by bereaved parents who reflect on their own experiences, their children’s grief, their interactions with each other, and how these are mediated by the material objects around them. Overall, the paper highlights the complex role of goods in sense-making and the renegotiation of family relationships and practices following a major bereavement.

Bugge, K., Darbyshire, P., Røkholt, E., Sulheim Haugstvedt, K., and Helseth, S. (2014) ‘Young children’s grief: parent’s understanding and coping’, Death Studies, 38: 36-43

Van Horn, P. (2006) ‘The river of grief: helping children cross to the other side’, Death Studies, 30: 971-5

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015
EventSocial Context of Death, Dying and Disposal (DDD12) - 1 December 1918" University of Alba Iulia, Alba Iulia, Romania
Duration: 2 Sept 20155 Sept 2015


ConferenceSocial Context of Death, Dying and Disposal (DDD12)
CityAlba Iulia

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • family bereavement; children; consumption


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