Traditionally, much of the debate around dying, death and bereavement has been centred in the realm of psychology, with a focus on the individual who is grieving.
Comparatively little attention has been paid to the social context in which the dying, death and bereavement occur. Yet these social aspects are equally important.
Dying, death and bereavement do not occur in a social vacuum. While the emotions are strong, and the need to understand the psychological processes is clearly an attractive study, the way those emotions are conceptualised, experienced and responded to will depend in large part on the social and cultural context within which the bereavement occurs.
The social response to bereavement can have a significant influence on the grieving process.
This November, a conference arranged under the auspices of The International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement (IWG) will encourage exploration of these ideas, both in the plenary and workshop sessions.
- Robert Neimeyer, University of Memphis, and Neil Thompson, writer and educator in Wales, who will debate the benefits and differences of the psychological and the sociological approachs to helping our understanding of bereavement.
- Darcy Harris, Western University, London, Ontario, who will present thoughts about the social justice issues arising out of consideration of bereavement, giving opportunities to reflect on our own response and approach.
- David Clark, Glasgow University, who will compare the issues from an international study of understanding of end of life issues from around the world.
- Kenneth Doka, who will ask what sociology adds to the study of death dying and bereavement, through the exploration of a variety of demographic and cultural issues.
There will also be opportunities for lively discussion and debate through the interactive workshops. These will explore a range of topics including:
- changing approaches to rituals and funerals today
- maximising child and family support following a bereavement by considering services for bereaved young people
- the growth of a national festival of remembering and its influence on building community resilience
- the role of volunteering in caring for the bereaved and the impact that this has on communities.
IWG is a worldwide fellowship of those in the forefront of bereavement research and practice who meet for a week of study every 18 months in a different country around the world.
As a prelude to our 29th meeting – in Scotland for the first time – the IWG offers this open conference on 5 November, bringing together keynote speakers and workshop facilitators from Scotland, Wales, Ireland, USA and Canada, to consider the social aspects of death, dying and bereavement.
The conference will be chaired by Dame Barbara Munroe CBE, special commissioner of the Royal Hospital Chelsea and a trustee of Marie Curie.
We would welcome people from all disciplines and backgrounds to join us in sharing knowledge and experience to add to the debate on the social aspects of death, dying and bereavement.