ABSTRACT

Continuing bonds (CBs) with the dead became part of bereavement studies toward the end of the twentieth century in North America. CBs, however, are not new, for we find them in cultures through history and even in pre-history–but that does not mean that CBs are understood the same way in each culture. On the contrary. Every culture provides frameworks (or frames) that members use to make sense of events and experiences (Goffman, 1974; Jakoby, 2012). Frames can be informal as well as formal, unofficial as well as official, lay as well as professional, sub- or counter-cultural as well as cultural. Frames that structure and organize CBs derive from a culture’s major narratives about personhood, God, life, death, and reality; they are therefore often political, tied to religious dogma or political positions that support–or sometimes resist–existing religious or political power (Goss & Klass, 2005). Frames help people interpret CBs, for example as acceptable or unacceptable, making sense or making no sense; some frames regulate CBs, others anathematize them. CBs may be framed as internal or external, a psychological need of the living or a social obligation to the dead, a relationship with a real spiritual entity or a hallucination, etc., etc. Practitioners and researchers use frames to make sense of CBs, whether manifested by a contemporary client or in another society; thus we all risk imposing our own frame on another person or another culture. The chief safeguard against this is to be aware of the range of possible frames.