Writing After Loss: What Grief Memoirs Teach Us

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Memoir writers describe the experience of grief firsthand with all of its complexity and nuance. These literary works are often blunt, realistic, and brutally honest often including humour or self-deprecation. They use imagery that is haunting and beautiful that can deepen understanding of the grief experience. Grief memoirs shed light on the often erratic, highly personal process of adaptation to loss.

This presentation will share observations from Professor Snauewart’s research on mourning memoirs. It will highlight similarities in clinical and literary thinking that can enhance clinical understanding of acute and integrated grief.

Learning Objectives:

1. Analyze uniqueness and commonality across grief storytellers

2. Utilize language from literary memoirs to describe grief to clients

3. Examine how literary language can inform the process of finding the words to explain grief therapy procedures to clients


Maïté Snauwaert is Associate Professor at the University of Alberta, Canada and a Visiting Research Scientist at the Center for Complicated Grief. Her current research, supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2016-2020), focuses on mourning memoirs published in the US, Canada and Europe in the last twenty-five years. She is the author of two books and has guest-edited several special issues of scholarly journals in literary studies.

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