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Emerging Norms: Negotiating the Expression of Grief in Online Peer Grief Support Communities

Conference contribution
Authors Ylva Hård af Segerstad
Published in 3rd International Death Online Research Symposium, March 6-8 2017 at Aarhus University, Denmark
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Applied Information Technology (GU)
Language en
Subject categories Human Aspects of ICT


Previous studies of a peer grief support community for grieving parents on Facebook have shown that the bereaved parents regard the closed community as a safe haven, vital in their process of adapting to their loss (Hård af Segerstad & Kasperowski, 2014; 2015). In results from surveys, interviews with members and administrators as well as content from the interaction in the Facebook group, we find the bereaved parents repeatedly stressing that “[in the closed group] you feel safe… you can share anything… in here you are not judged”. Within the community, the grieving parents feel safe in expressing parental care and continuing bonds with their deceased children in ways that would not be acceptable outside of the community (cf. Klass et al. 1996; Christensen & Sandvik 2015). However, even though the parents express that they can share “anything”, norms for the expressions of grief are from time to time explicitly negotiated even within the community. An illustration of this is an episode of intense debate that took place in the community in the fall of 2015, following the posting of a photo of a dead child on its deathbed. In the closed group, photos of deceased children are certainly not uncommon but whether this should be allowed was suddenly heatedly debated during several days. It exemplifies the negotiation of norms within a community which comprises diametrically different standpoints among its members: being allowed to share photos of dead children is for some what makes the community into a safe haven, while others see the same practice as making it impossible to use the community as a secure resource. Studying bereaved parents’ expression of grief in dynamic communities online will nuance our understanding of present-day grief work and contribute to an enhanced theoretical understanding of parental grief.

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