Grief narratives: The role of medicine in the policing of grief

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Drawing largely on already published literature, this article examines the hypothesis, derived from Frank, that the current proliferation of first-person accounts of grief represents an attempt by mourners to recover their voice in the face of grief's medicalisation. The extent of medicine's colonisation of grief is found to be limited. Though some mourners make a point of rejecting semi-psychiatric terms, others use such terms to structure their accounts of grief. A broader analysis shows that the policing of grief often occurs without reference to medical terminology and in several arenas outside the medical: in a patriarchal and controlling general culture, in family dynamics, and in counselling and mutual-help groups. Three issues are looked at in some detail: the role of women's liberation in allowing more expressive and personalised grief talk, the suppression of grief talk in the cause of retaining emotional equilibrium within the family, and the exclusion by mutual-help groups of some accounts even as they include others. Resistance is directed as much to face-to-face policing in families and other groups as to grief's medicalistion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-114
Number of pages18
JournalAnthropology & Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2000


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