Consoling the bereaved: Exploring how sympathy cards influence what people say
Calderwood, Kimberly A.
Alberton, Amy M.
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Calderwood, K. A., & Alberton, A. M. (2022). Consoling the Bereaved: Exploring How Sympathy Cards Influence What People Say. OMEGA - Journal of Death and Dying. https://doi.org/10.1177/00302228211065958
In a sequential mixed methods study, interview data showed that bereaved parents consistently reported “stupid” or “insensitive” things people said that were not helpful when their child died. Subsequently, a discourse analysis of 170 sympathy cards was conducted to assess societal messaging that may influence people’s insensitive words. The findings reflected two distinct time periods in the bereavement process: a time of sadness followed by a time of peace. Possible links to insensitive things people said included: suggestions that the sad time should only last a few days, suggestions of “healing,” religious statements such as the deceased being with God or advice to pray to God, and notions of celebration in some contexts. Very few excerpts were similar to the advice-giving quotes that interviewees considered to be insensitive. Many cards reflected the love and memories inherent in creating a continuing bond with the deceased and achieving peace.
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