Theoretical Tools to Understanding Perinatal Grief from a Sociological Perspective

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Sabrina ZEGHICHE, University of Ottawa, Canada
Perinatal grief is an important social phenomenon, yet it is rarely examined in social sciences, namely in sociology. In this presentation, I would like to explore theoretical tools in the sociology of emotions that I build upon to examine my research object : the social regulation of perinatal grief as it relates to the process of meaning-making, both in its unfolding (in institutional discourse) and in its effects (in grieving women’s narratives).

To do so, I call upon two theoretical currents in the sociology of emotions : symbolic interactionism and structural sociology (Jakoby, 2012). In order to understand the process of meaning-making of perinatal grief, one needs to examine it on different levels. On the macro level, one needs to study its unfolding both in the context of the two imbricated social structures (modernity/postmodernity) and the two cultures of grief (modernism/postmodernism), as well as in its specific national setting (Walter, 2007). This allows us to better understand the modalities of the dominant discourse on perinatal grief (the way it is 'framed') and the rules that underlie its management (the way it is ‘handled’). The concept of frame answers the question ‘what’ (what meaning to assign to grief), whereas the concept of ‘management’ answers the questions ‘how’ and ‘who’ (how grief should be felt and displayed (Hochschild, 1979) ; and who is entitled to grieve and to be grieved for – which poses the question of social recognition and introduces the concept of disenfranchised grief (Doka, 2002; Robson & Walter, 2013)).

At the micro level, one needs to examine the intermediate processes between the social regulation of grief and the experience of grieving actors, namely, the processes of motivation, alignment and emotion work (Hochschild, 1979). All these tools will hopefully give a new outlook on perinatal grief.