An Intimate Loneliness: Supporting Bereaved Parents and Siblings

An Intimate Loneliness: Supporting Bereaved Parents and Siblings

An Intimate Loneliness: Supporting Bereaved Parents and Siblings

An Intimate Loneliness: Supporting Bereaved Parents and Siblings


• What impact does a child's death have on family relationships?

• How might differences in the way mothers and fathers deal with bereavement contribute to increased marital tension?

• Why are bereaved siblings so deeply affected by the way their parents grieve?

An Intimate Loneliness explores how family members attempt to come to terms with the death of an offspring or brother or sister. Drawing on relevant research and the authors' own experience of working with bereaved parents and siblings, this book examines the importance of social relationships in helping parents and siblings adjust to their bereavement. The chances of making sense of this most distressing loss are influenced by the resilience of the family's surviving relationships, by the availability of wider support networks and by the cultural resources that inform each's perception of death. This book considers the impact of bereavement on self and family identity. In particular, it examines the role of shared remembering in transforming survivors' relationships with the deceased, and in helping rebuild their own identity with a significantly changed family structure. Problems considered include: the failure of intimate relationships, cultural and gender expectations, the invisibility of fathers' and siblings' grief, sudden and 'difficult' deaths, lack of information, and the sense of isolation felt by some family members.

This book will be of value to students on courses in counselling, health care, psychology, social policy, pastoral care and education. It will appeal to sociology students with an interest in death, dying and mortality. It is also aimed at professionally qualified counselling, health and social service workers, at informed voluntary group members, the clergy, teachers and others involved with pastoral care.


It is a great pleasure to welcome Gordon Riches and Pam Dawson's first book, to the Facing Death Series. Our early volumes concentrated upon aspects of palliative care and cancer care. Then came Tony Walter's (1999) path-breaking book On Bereavement, which is now complemented superbly by An Intimate Loneliness, in which the authors address the question of support for bereaved parents and siblings.

This is a book full of practical relevance to those who work with the fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers of those who died prematurely. The authors begin from the assumption that such bereavements, whilst often tragically avoidable, nevertheless constitute 'normal' and 'taken for granted' aspects of modern culture. It is precisely because this culture individualizes these experiences, however, that making sense of them either personally or structurally causes us so many problems. This makes An Intimate Loneliness a very important book.

In recent years a 'new' model of bereavement has been developing, discussed at length in Tony Walter's volume in the Facing Death series. Now we have a book firmly rooted in this social and cultural approach to the analysis of bereavement which in looking at the specific issue of parental and sibling loss turns the new theoretical model to such palpable practical advantage. I suspect that many practitioners will feel deeply gratified that much of their professional experience in recognizing social and cultural factors in bereavement is now being given a new legitimacy. This is a perspective for too long silenced by the predominant psychological discourse of bereavement. Now it has a voice and as a result our attention can turn, properly, to the relationship between endogenous and exogenous factors in understanding bereavement and the delicate interplay between embodied identity, our theories of loss, and encounters with the social world.

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