Exploring the Social Construction of Grief and Loss in Spouses Following Bereavement by Cancer

Prof Doc Thesis

Bear, Francine 2016. Exploring the Social Construction of Grief and Loss in Spouses Following Bereavement by Cancer. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London Psychology https://doi.org/10.15123/PUB.5386
AuthorsBear, Francine
TypeProf Doc Thesis

Cancer bereavement may be associated with unique challenges involved in the caregiving experience, particularly for spouses, who commonly adopt this role. However, the dominance of quantitative and diagnostically informed research has produced a-contextual theories, which reinforce increasingly medicalised conceptualisations of grief. In contrast, less attention has been given to the subjective experience in this context, particularly from a discursive perspective.
Three focus groups comprising an overall total of six men and 17 women were used to facilitate discussions between spouses who were bereaved by cancer. A Foucauldian-informed discourse analysis was employed to examine how participants constructed grief and loss, and to identify the broader discourses that served to shape these. Additional attention was paid to the rhetorical aspects of these constructions. Three overarching discursive ‘sites’ were identified: i) medicalisation; ii) individualism and iii) productivity and purpose.
Analysis of the discursive activity illuminated how these discourses co-existed, creating tensions within constructions that highlighted an increasing professionalisation of grief, and also carried expectations for individuals to manage their grieving in private, via practices of self-regulation. These discourses offered subjugated positions and served to reinforce the power differentials that exist between the bereaved and professionals. However, those constructions that resisted positions of powerlessness and being silenced enabled individuals a greater sense of authority within bereavement and led them to feel more open and connected as a result.
The findings draw attention to the expectation for bereaved individuals to protect society from their emotions. This has important implications for how grief may be better supported within clinical psychology settings and points to the need to challenge unhelpful assumptions within society.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/PUB.5386
Publication dates
PrintMay 2016
Publication process dates
Deposited21 Nov 2016
Publisher's version
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