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Searching for a Narrative of Loss: Interactional Ordering of Ambiguous Grief

Symbolic Interaction

Published online on


In this article I analyze the collective management of ambiguous emotions in the case of grief arising from perinatal loss/stillbirth. Based on a content analysis of selected Polish discussion lists for bereaved parents and interviews with moderators of these lists, I conceptualize the experience of grief arising from miscarriage/stillbirth as both culturally “disembedded”—not regulated by a coherent set of feeling and display rules, and interactionally “disenfranchised”—framed by the immediate social surrounding of the bereaved as illegitimate. This study then focuses on subsequent social processes surrounding the collective management of such emotions through interactions within online bereavement communities, leading to the creation of local definitions of the situation of loss and formation of subcultural feeling and display rules of grief. I posit that in a wider perspective these community processes can be seen as grassroots mechanisms that agents use to transform the existing emotional culture of grief.