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Communication and Medicine

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Community as a key to healing after the death of a child

Sally O Hastings / George W Musambira / Judith D Hoover
Published Online: 2007-12-04 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/CAM.2007.019

Abstract

Communication is believed to hold a central role in recreating an individual's sense of meaning and well-being after a loss. Narrative theory in particular points to ways that people create meaning and connection with others. Literature on bereavement suggests that the formation of connections with others, or building community, comprises an important part of the healing process. For this study, the content of bulletin board postings commemorating deceased children was studied quantitatively and qualitatively. Data were examined to learn how contributors used the Web site to connect with others who shared experience of losing a child, engage in meaningful shared activities, and create community. Findings from the data analysis suggest that the Web site contributors are able to discuss topics that might be restricted in other communication scenes. The discussion of these topics allows them to serve as ‘witnesses’ to truths learned as a result of the loss of a child and enables the participants to keep the memory of the child alive. By participating in this scene of meaning negotiation, we argue that the participants actively construct a counterplot to societal narrative expectations for bereavement that facilitates the creation of some positive meanings.

Keywords: narrative; bereavement; connection; community; loss; online; bulletin board

About the article

Sally O Hastings

Sally O. Hastings (Ph.D., University of Massachusetts, Amherst) is an Assistant Professor at the University of Central Florida. Her research interests include communication and bereavement, cultural adaptation, and communication and stigma. She has published in Journal of Language and Social Psychology, Research on Language and Social Interaction, and Storytelling, Self, Society.

George W Musambira

Dr. George W. Musambira (Ph.D., SUNY, Bualo) is an Assistant Professor at the University of Central Florida. His research interests include communication in the partnerships of philanthropic organizations and gender and bereavement. He has published in Howard Journal of Communications and Communication Education.

Judith D Hoover

Judith Hoover (Ph.D., Indiana Univ., 1983), Professor of Communication at Western Kentucky University (retired), has published in American Behavioral Scientist, Southern Communication Journal, and Southern Quarterly. She also published Effective Small Group and Team Communication (Wadsworth) and edited Corporate Advocacy (Greenwood). She served as editor of World Communication, a refereed international journal, 1997–2002.


*Address for correspondence: Nicholson School of Communication, University of Central Florida, P.O. Box 161344, Orlando, FL 32816, USA.


Published Online: 2007-12-04

Published in Print: 2007-10-26


Citation Information: Communication & Medicine, Volume 4, Issue 2, Pages 153–163, ISSN (Online) 1613-3625, ISSN (Print) 1612-1783, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/CAM.2007.019.

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