What would you say to a deceased loved one if they could come back for one day? What if you can’t just ‘move on’ from grief? At Home with Grief: Continued Bonds with the Deceased chronicles Blake Paxton’s autoethnographic study of his continued relationship with his deceased mother. In the 90s, Silverman, Klass, and Nickman argued that after the death of a loved one, the bond does not have to be broken and the bereaved can find many ways to connect with memories of the dead.
Building on their work, many other bereavement scholars have discussed the importance of not treating these relationships as pathological and have suggested that more research is needed in this area of grief studies. However, very few studies have addressed the communal and everyday subjective experiences of continuing bonds with the deceased, as well as how our relationship with our grief changes in the long term.
In this book, Blake Paxton shows how a community in southern Illinois continues a relationship with one deceased individual more than ten years after her death. Through this gripping autoethnographic account of his mother’s struggles with a rare cancer, her death, and his struggles with sexuality, he poses possibilities of what might happen when cultural prescriptions for grief are challenged, and how continuing bonds with the dead may help us continue or restore broken bonds with the living.
Paxton returns to his hometown to immerse himself in stories about his mother who died when he was eighteen. Artfully weaving research methods, small-town cultural descriptions, rich remembrances, and a developmental view of both the author’s coming out process and a particular mother-son relationship, Paxton describes an alternative to socially constructed closure after death. He brings to life the possibility of continuing bonds with the deceased, providing a rich alternative to letting go as the only healthy conclusion to a devastating death. Paxton’s homing route helps readers map their own journey to continuing, loving bonds with their deceased.
Dr Joyce L. Hocker, Clinical Psychologist, Missoula, Montana
At Home With Grief is poignant, vulnerable, funny, and thoughtful. Paxton captures this mess of emotions we call grief in moments both small and wide-ranging, crystallized in a compelling narrative that offers something valuable to those dealing with grief, those writing about grief, and those who write and study autoethnography.
Dr Kurt Lindemann, School of Communication, San Diego State University
I recommend At Home with Grief to anyone who rejects, as both Paxton and I do, the ‘‘tyranny of closure’’ (p. 2). One need not believe in an afterlife to agree with an interviewee’s statement that Paxton’s mother will ‘‘live on through your gift’’ (p. 102). Paxton’s book is, finally, a gift to his readers.
Jeffrey Berman, University at Albany, State University of New York, USA, Journal of Death and
Introduction: The Rendezvous
Chapter 1. Goodbye
Chapter 2. Re-membering
Chapter 3. Home
Chapter 4. Reassessing Continuing Bonds and the Causality Thesis
Chapter 5. Future Directions for Continuing Bonds Research
Afterword: A Family Wedding Reception to Re-member
Appendix: Methodology and Analysis as Mourning
Writing Lives: Ethnographic and Autoethnographic Narratives publishes autoethnographic and narrative research projects across the disciplines of the human sciences—anthropology, communication, education, psychology, sociology, etc. The series editors seek manuscripts that blur the boundaries between humanities and social sciences. We encourage novel and evocative forms of expressing concrete lived experience, including literary, poetic, artistic, critical, visual, performative, multi-voiced, and co-constructed representations. We are interested in ethnographic and autoethnographic narratives that depict local stories; employ literary modes of scene setting, dialogue, character development, and unfolding action; and include the author's critical reflections on the research and writing process, such as research ethics, alternative modes of inquiry and representation, reflexivity, and evocative storytelling.
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