How Funerals Accomplish Family: Findings from a Mass Observation study

Tony Walter, Tara Bailey

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The article analyses how potentially conflicting frames of grief and family operate in a number of English funerals. The data come from the 2010 Mass-Observation (M-O) directive ‘Going to Funerals’ which asked its panel of correspondents to write about the most recent funeral they had attended. In their writings, grief is displayed through conventional understandings of family. Drawing on Randall Collins, we show how the funeral stratifies mourners into family / non-family, a stratification accomplished – by family and non-family - through both outward display and inner feeling. The funerals described were more about a very traditional notion of family than about grief; family trumped grief, or at least provided the frame through which grief could be written about; perceptions of ‘family’ prompted emotions which in turn defined family. The funerals were portrayed as a distinct arena privileging family over the fluid and varied personal attachments highlighted in both the new sociology of personal life and in the concept of disenfranchised grief.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-195
Number of pages21
JournalOmega: Journal of Death & Dying
Issue number2
Early online date6 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2020


  • ritual
  • disenfranchised grief
  • emotion


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