The Rush to End Grief and What It Costs Us
Charles Horton Cooley Award for Best Book from the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction, 2013; Honorable Mention from the Sociology of Emotions section of the American Sociological Association, 2012
Narrated by Catherine Force
Approximately 9 hours
Book published by Temple University Press
When it comes to the end of a relationship, the loss of a loved one, or even a national tragedy, we are often told we need “closure.” But while some people do find closure for their pain and grief, many more feel closure does not exist and believe the notion only promises false hopes. Sociologist Nancy Berns explores these ideas and their ramifications in her timely book, Closure.
Berns uncovers the various interpretations and contradictory meanings of closure. She identifies six types of “closure talk,” revealing closure as a socially constructed concept—a “new emotion.” Berns also explores how closure has been applied widely in popular media and how the idea has been appropriated as a political tool and to sell products and services.
This book explains how the push for closure—whether we find it helpful, engaging, or enraging—is changing our society.
Nancy Berns is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Drake University in Des Moines. Her teaching and research interests are in areas of grief, death, violence, justice, and social constructionism.
“Compelling...Berns, who experienced a profound loss when she gave birth to a stillborn son, is here to reinforce what most of us intuitively know: feeling bad about losing a loved one never really ends. By commodifying the concept of closure in order to sell products and services, however, society has put pressure on us to conform to the prevailing 'feeling rules,' suggesting that disappointment, loss, and grief can and should come to an arbitrary end. Berns angrily dismisses this notion.... VERDICT Berns wisely counsels us to find other language and perspectives for living with grief, and this lucid debunking of the current use of the word 'closure' is a breath of fresh air, recommended for both general readers and specialists. ”
“Berns’ book is a critical, thoughtful discussion, framing grief in attainable measures for clinicians, practitioners, service providers, educators, researchers, as well as anyone and everyone who has, or is, experiencing grief.”
—Journal of Social Work in End-of-Life & Palliative Care
“A well written and accessible book that provides a wealth of examples of the way in which managing loss is currently commercialised, marketed and consumed.... [H]ighly readable and informative, [and] full of anecdotes to illustrate the author's points.... an engaging and edifying text. ”
—Cruse Bereavement Care
“Berns is strongest when she examines how closure gets taken up and used in interests in politics, media, the criminal justice system and, most convincingly, industry, in order to make a profit on people’s pain and suffering. Indeed, Berns’ ability to intersect a cultural analysis of closure with a critical justice analysis is powerful and compelling. It is here where she offers a unique analysis and where her meta-view as a sociologist crosses with her personal experience as a mourner to provide insight into how closure gets taken up in various cultural domains with ensuing negative consequences for the mourner. The book will be compelling reading for anyone interested in understanding the various ways in which mourning has changed over the last few decades, and more importantly the ways in which these shifts have affected a culture still struggling to come to grips with grief. ”
“To the reader's likely great edification, Berns...works hard intellectually to separate knotty political, business, marketing, media, legal, cultural, sociological, ethical, religious, and psychological strands knottily entwining closure. The text is characterized by thoughtful, insightful discourse garbed with a cloak of great sensitivity.... The book is a boon to all grieving persons. Professionally, the book should, also, be richly rewarding to bereavement scholars, sociologists, mental health professionals, politicians, and to businesses in some way tethered to grief and closure.”
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