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Bereaved parents’ online grief communities: de-tabooing practices or grief-ghettos?

Journal article
Authors Dorthe Refslund Christensen
Ylva Hård af Segerstad
Dick Kasperowski
Kjetil Sandvik
Published in Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media
Volume 61
Issue 1
Pages 58-72
ISSN 0883-8151
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Applied Information Technology (GU)
Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science
Pages 58-72
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1080/08838151.2016.12...
Subject categories Other Humanities, Human Aspects of ICT

Abstract

Parents may talk about their children extensively, as long as they are alive, but - at least in the Nordic countries - expressing the same kind of parental practice once your child is dead is taboo. This limits bereaved parents’ means for coping with and communicating about their loss and their ability to establish and continue their role as parents to the deceased child. However, this seem to be changing with new practices observed on children’s graves, the growing use of memory tattoos and especially the use of online media as platforms for various communities for bereaved parents. This article presents results from case studies of both open and closed online grief communities for bereaved parents in Denmark and Sweden (Christensen & Sandvik 2013, 2015a, Hård af Segerstad & Kasperowski 2015) in order to analyze how development of practices and norms for grieving and mourning online are related to the particular conditions for participation in the online forums, and how these practices are related to dominant ideas of grief in society as such. Rooted in contemporary research on processes of grief and mourning – especially focusing on changes from a paradigm on ‘letting go and moving on’ to a paradigm of continuing bonds (Klass et al. 1996) and performing parenthood (Christensen & Sandvik 2015) – this article discusses which kinds of practices are performed and shared in the different online forums and how norms and traditions are performed, challenged and negotiated in the various formats. Studying bereaved parents’ grief work in dynamic communities online enhances our understanding of contemporary griefwork and contributes to a nuanced theoretical understanding of parental grief and knowledge about experiences among community members may enable us to discuss hypothetically whether these practices lead to a softening of prejudices against mourners, i.e. de-tabooing the loss of a child, or if they lead to new biases and misconceptions as displayed in popular media, casting online communities for bereaved parents as grief-ghettos.

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