Belief and bereavement: the notion of “Attachment” and the grief work hypothesis.
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Death and bereavement are both unavoidable points along the imaginary of life, as we navigate lives that are punctuated by a seeming infi nite number of events, including the eventuality of death. For some individuals, religion appears to provide the theoretical and theological frameworks that constitute the multiple socially and culturally determined narratives through which one can make sense of the eventuality of death and loss. This sense-making often entails reconstructing and reassembling the grasp of the loss in a way that reaffi rms core theological beliefs about the self and world, and the world beyond. This paper is a theoretical engagement with the widely held conviction that religion and religious beliefs offer reflective tools for accepting and coping with the death of a loved one and brings a critical gaze to the notion of “attachment” and “continuing bonds” within the context of the “Grief work” hypothesis. “Grief work Theory” puts forward a model for “detachment” and severing ties and bonds with the deceased to aid the process of coping with loss and grief, and suggests that this severing is essential for the process of healing, restoration and return to normality for the bereaved. However, the paper engages with the view that religious frameworks and “death specifi c beliefs” offer a form of ‘attachment’ or ‘continuing relationship’ that is healthy and benefi cial rather than pathological, and is more in accordance with insights from later grief research and ‘Continuing bonds Theory’. By peeling back the theoretical wrappings around the notion of attachment, more specifi cally within grief and death counselling, the paper attempts to lay bare a theological reunderstanding and re-contextualisation of ‘attachment’ in the context of grief and bereavement, and bereavement counselling.