Back in January I wrote a post calling for expressions of interest in contributing to a new edited collection on men, bereavement and loss, which my Open University colleague Dr. Kerry Jones and I were planning. I’m pleased to report that we were overwhelmed with abstracts for possible chapters and were able to put together a robust book proposal to submit to interested publishers.
I’m also delighted to report that Kerry and I have now signed a contract with Routledge for delivering the book, with the provisional title Men and Loss: men, masculinity and bereavement, in 2023.
Dr Kerry Jones
As we argued in our proposal document, although bereavement and loss are unavoidable events in life and can be challenging experiences for anyone, regardless of sex or gender, in contemporary western cultures, men’s experience of bereavement continues to be framed by socially constructed ideas surrounding masculinity. Men who do not grieve in accepted ‘masculine’ ways can feel judged, alienated or disenfranchised. Men also tend to have fewer informal support networks than women, while formal bereavement support, in its focus on talking therapies, often fails to engage men or meet their needs. In addition, gendered social expectations may hinder men from expressing their feelings openly and from seeking help.
There are currently very few publications that explore men’s experience of bereavement in depth or discuss men’s specific needs for support following loss, and certainly no recent book-length texts on these topics. We argued that there is a need for a book which increases understanding of men’s experience of loss, drawing on recent research and cutting-edge ideas about bereavement on the one hand, and men and masculinities on the other, and at the same time contributing to improving support services to men following bereavement. The increasing focus, in policy and practice, on mental health issues affecting boys and men should also make this publication timely. We believe that our book will fill a definite gap in both the academic and professional literatures on bereavement, at the same time making a significant contribution to the literature on men, masculinities and wellbeing. We also believe it will have a significant appeal to researchers, educators and professionals working in a variety of fields.
Our interdisciplinary and interprofessional edited collection will bring together authors from a wide range of backgrounds in research, teaching and professional practice, many with personal experiences of loss that have informed their thinking and practice. As co-editors, Kerry and I combine academic expertise in teaching and research on end-of-life care, on the one hand, and men, masculinities and care on the other. Our contributors are drawn predominantly from the UK, but also from Europe, North America and the Middle East. The collection will include theoretical analysis, reports of research findings, reviews of support and interventions, and a wealth of personal accounts, with many chapters interweaving the person with the academic or professional.
The book will be loosely structured, beginning with theoretical and research-based chapters, followed by personal accounts and ending with chapters that reflect on practice and consider the implications for supporting bereaved men. However, the considerable overlap between these different categories makes a strict division between discrete sections impossible. The forms of loss discussed will include partner loss, childhood bereavement, perinatal loss and bereavement through suicide, as well as bereavement at all stages of the life course. Although the primary focus is on the ways in which the experience of loss is framed by gender identity, a diversity of experience and practice in terms of social class, ethnicity, culture and geographical location will also be represented in the book.
Image via sands.org.uk
I’ll post more details of the book on this blog, including names of authors and chapter titles, when we’re a little further along in the writing process. However, I can state definitively that one of the chapters will focus on the research that Kerry and I have been undertaking recently, with our colleague Sam Murphy, on the experiences of fathers who have lost a child in the perinatal period, and specifically those who have formed themselves into football teams, under the auspices of the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death charity (SANDS), as a means of providing mutual support. We’ve now completed all the interviews for the study and have just begun the analysis phase: watch this space for further updates.