Consoling the bereaved: Exploring how sympathy cards influence what people say

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Authors
Calderwood, Kimberly A.
Alberton, Amy M.
Issue Date
2022-01-26
Type
Article
Language
en_US
Keywords
Sympathy cards , Bereavement , Condolences , Consolation , Discourse analysis
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Abstract

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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Preprint. Also available from the publisher (click on the DOI link)
Citation
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
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SAGE Journals
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ISSN
0030-2228
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