An Exploration of Themes in Meaningful Objects Following the Loss of a Loved One

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Lapczynski, Melissa
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Historical works on grief and loss suggest that relinquishing ties to the deceased is a goal of grief and not doing so is considered to be pathological. This view has been prominent well into the 20th century, with exception to the last two decades, where a new theory has received a great deal of attention. The theory of continuing bonds suggests that it is a healthy and adaptive part of the grieving process to maintain a connection and a relationship with deceased individuals, although the relationship is much different. Bonds with the deceased are continued in many different ways, one of which is through meaningful objects that are connected to the deceased in some way. Qualitative and specifically phenomenological research was conducted to explore the underlying themes in the meaningful objects that people possess following the loss of a loved one. Five participants ranging in age of 25-59 who have experienced the death of a loved one and possess a meaningful object associated to that individual were interviewed in depth about their loss and the object. A number of prominent themes were discovered. The research found that the participants were familiar with the objects, which varied and were typically something that belonged to and was used by the deceased and given to the participants shortly after the death. The meaningful objects were connected to the deceased in some way, evoked positive memories and mixed emotions. A connection was made between these findings and existing literature on continuing bonds and meaningful objects. The findings from the study will aid in the normalization of continuing bonds and provide a deeper understanding of the subject and build upon the little amount of literature that exists on the topic. The findings can also provide information to those in the helping profession or any other support system to a person grieving the loss of a loved one who is in possession of a meaningful object and continuing a bond with the deceased. Implications of the research and for further scholarly action are also discussed.