Lost children, living memories: the role of photographs in processes of grief and adjustment among bereaved parent

Death Stud. 1998;22(2):121-40. doi: 10.1080/074811898201632.


Drawing on recent developments in the conceptualization of grief (Klass, Silverman, and Nickman, 1996; Walter, 1996) that note the importance of talking about lost loved ones as part of maintaining a "continuing bond" between the living and the dead, this article considers the role of photographs in parents' adjustment to life without their child and in their negotiation of a more "comfortable" relationship with the deceased. The contributions that photographs and other memorabilia make to parents' opportunities to remember their children's lives (as opposed to their deaths), to facilitating conversations and reminiscences about their living relationships, and to parents' ability to introduce "lost" children to people who didn't know them, are explored using examples drawn from a series of case studies of bereaved parents. Photographs and other artifacts arising from their children's living can be perceived as the illustrations of a developing story in which previous and present relationships may be represented and interrogated for meaning. It is argued that visual representations of children's lives, no matter how brief, are a crucial feature of the process of coming to terms with both the fact of the loss and the reality of the life that has been lived.

MeSH terms

  • Bereavement*
  • Grief*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Memory
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Photography*