The Loss of a Life Partner: Narratives of the Bereaved

The Loss of a Life Partner: Narratives of the Bereaved

The Loss of a Life Partner: Narratives of the Bereaved

The Loss of a Life Partner: Narratives of the Bereaved

Synopsis

Although there is extensive research on the loss of a spouse, predominantly focusing on the experiences of widows, much less attention is paid to bereaved partners not married to their significant other, whether or not the partners are of the same sex. This first-of-its-kind work explores both socially sanctioned and disenfranchised grief, highlighting similarities and differences. Combining a discussion of various theories of grief with personal narratives of grieving men and women drawn from numerous interviews, and detailed case study analysis, Carolyn Ambler Walter has produced a penetrating examination of the bereavement experiences of partners in varying types of relationships. She views narratives of widows, widowers, and bereaved domestic gay and lesbian partners from a postmodern perspective that breaks away from the traditional belief that the living must detach themselves from the dead in order to move on with their lives. Instead, building on the works of postmodern grief theorists such as Klass, Silverman, and Nickman, Walter views ongoing bonds with the dead as a resource for enriching functionality in the present, and as a key to looking to the future.

Excerpt

Despite the growing number of books devoted to grief and loss, none integrate the literature about varying types of relationships and the bereavement experiences of partners in those relationships. This text juxtaposes the experiences of bereaved partners from marital relationships and those from domestic partnerships (same-sex and opposite-sex) in one work and examines the effects of both spousal loss and disenfranchised grief upon bereaved individuals.

The research on spousal loss is extensive and provides documentation showing that it can be the most stressful event in one's life (Holmes and Rahe 1967). What is far less extensive, however, is literature that examines the reactions of bereaved domestic partners. Here, we present and discuss excerpts of narratives of bereaved partners from widowed, same-sex, and opposite-sex relationships, based upon issues from the literature as well as from a postmodern perspective. This book provides the reader with a rare opportunity to explore the issues of partner loss in both traditional and nontraditional relationships. Socially sanctioned and disenfranchised grief are placed side by side, in an integrative manner, to validate the diverse types of grief that bereaved partners experience.

Because the number of adults choosing to live in nontraditional relationships is increasing, it is important to augment the literature that examines the issue of loss of a nonmarried partner. the most recent census report (Fields and Casper 2001) indicates that 7.6 million men and women responded to the census by indicating that they were living in a cohabiting relationship. This figure represents 3.8 million unmarried-partner households. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “These numbers may underrepresent the true number of cohabitating couples because only householders and their partners are tabulated, and respondents may be reluctant to classify themselves as such in an interview situation and describe themselves as roommates, housemates or friends not related to each other” (Fields and Casper 2001:12). the increase in age at which both men and women are marrying has contributed to these statistics. For example, between 1970 and 2000, the number of women between twenty and twentyfour years of age who had not married doubled, and the proportion of . . .

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