Pearce, C. (2016) ‘Recovering Normal: A qualitative study of grief following bereavement’, PhD awarded from The Open University, Faculty of Health and Social Care.
This thesis explores the notion of ‘recovery’ from grief following bereavement and answers the question, what happens when people ‘fail’ to recover? Researchers and practitioners promote a linear, staged, ‘normal course’ of grief, yet people who fail to follow this course are understood as experiencing ‘complicated grief’: a form of psychiatric disorder. In particular, the thesis explores the debates and issues around the highly contested notion of recovery from grief, drawing on an analysis of the theory and policy of grief and recovery, and empirical qualitative interview data from bereavement care practitioners and bereaved people in England. Arguing for the acknowledgment of the experience of ‘non-recovery’, this thesis draws on a Foucauldian approach to problematise the notion of recovery, highlighting how ‘recovery’ is a socially constructed notion linked to the individualised vision of health and happiness promoted by neo-liberal governmentality.
The study concentrates on three areas: the political and cultural factors that ‘frame’ grief and recovery in England; how grief is managed, through the example of bereavement counselling, and the ways in which bereaved people make sense of grief. The findings of this study present the experience of grief as one of navigating a ‘liminal space’. Recovery from grief was achieved or resisted through the negotiation of a variety of political, medical and social discourses. These discourses provided guidelines for the bereaved person, where they were encouraged to make sense of grief, engage in certain practices and work towards the building of new identities, in order to recover from grief. Further, through the incorporation of ‘non-recovery’ this study proposes an alternative way of theorising grief, arguing for the need to emphasise the relational and embodied aspects of grief.
Pearce, C. (2011). Girl, Interrupted: An exploration into the experience of grief following the death of a mother in young women’s narratives. Mortality, Vol 16(1): 35-53.
Pearce, C. (2010). The Crises and Freedoms of Researching your own life. Journal of Research Practice, Vol 6(1).
Pearce, C. (2008). World Interrupted: An autoethnographic exploration into the rupture of self and family narratives following the onset of chronic illness and the death of a mother. Qualitative Sociology Review, Vol 4(1).
‘Hoarding – A 21st Century condition?’ OpenLearn, 2014. http://www.open.edu/openlearn/health-sports-psychology/hoarding-21st-century-condition
‘Happiness is a feminist issue’, The F-Word, (April 18th 2013) http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2013/04/happiness_is_a_feminist_issue
‘Everyone needs a hug, right?’, Semionaut, (Dec 2011) http://www.semionaut.net/everyone-needs-a-hug-right/
“I had no choice, I just had to get on with it”: Getting over and persisting in grief’, 5th International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Emotional Geographies, University of Edinburgh, June 2015.
‘The promise of recovery’, Paper delivered at seminar ‘The Meaning of Recovery’ at the Faculty of Health and Social Care, The Open University, Milton Keynes, October 2014.
‘Recovery and getting over grief: Or ways of being human that were never sovereign’, Normalcy and the Mundane conference, University of Sheffield, July 2014.
‘Navigating the liminal space of grief’, Between Spaces and Places: Landscapes of Liminality conference, Trinity College Dublin, June 2014.
‘What does it mean to recover?: Negotiating recovery in grief and bereavement’, The British Sociological Association Conference, Leeds, April 2014.
‘Reflections on recovery: Breaking bad attachments’, 11th Death, Dying and Disposal Conference, The Open University, Milton Keynes, September 2013.