Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Carolyn S. Ellis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Arthur P. Bochner, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lori Roscoe, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Keith Berry, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Margarethe Kusenbach, Ph.D.


autoethnography, bereavement, interpersonal communication, sociology of emotions


Bereavement scholars Silverman, Nickman, and Klass (1996) have argued that rituals to continue a relationship with the deceased do not have to be considered pathological in nature. Since their work, scholars have offered specific strategies for the bereaved to actively construct a bond after death, including telling stories about those who have died, having imagined conversations with the deceased, celebrating their birthdays and anniversaries, and reviewing artifacts that represent or once belonged to them (among other strategies). Hedtke and Winslade (2004) call these “re-membering” processes by which the deceased can regain active membership in their loved ones lives. This dissertation is an answer to Root and Exline’s (2014) call for researchers to produce work that explores the bereaved individual’s everyday subjective experience of continuing a relationship with the deceased. Constructed from six weeks of ethnographic fieldwork and interactive interviewing in his hometown, the author has created a case study of continuing bonds with a specific individual (his mother) and community of grievers 10 years after her death. This dissertation investigates how continuing a bond with the deceased is a relational, communicative, and communal phenomenon as well as an individual, internal, and psychological process. It expands the perspective on continuing bonds as a coping strategy to a narrative blueprint for living one’s life.

Included in

Communication Commons