Communication Studies, Department of



Grieving together and apart: Bereaved parents’ contradictions of marital interaction

Date of this Version



Journal of Applied Communication Research, 37, 3, 257-277. (Author manuscript) Published version available online at: (paywalled)


© 2009 Taylor & Francis. Used by permission.


The researchers adopted relational dialectics theory (Baxter & Montgomery, 1996) to examine the discourse of 40 bereaved parents following the death of a child. Research questions guiding the study were what dialectical contradictions do bereaved parents experience when communicating with each other after their child’s death and how do bereaved parents communicatively negotiate the dialectical contradictions they experience? Bereaved parents experienced two dialectical contradictions-the first between trying to grieve their child’s death together as a couple and apart as individuals and the second between being both open and closed when talking with one another about their deceased child. Results describe how parents negotiated these contradictions using Baxter and Montgomery’s (1996) praxical patterns. Implications for bereaved parents and practitioners are discussed.