Grief after suicide: A study of taboo and metaphor

Anna Overvad, Brady Wagoner

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review

1 Citationer (Scopus)


This article analyzes the negotiation of taboo surrounding grief after the suicide of a loved one. It draws on ethnographic fieldwork with a support group and individual interviews with its members. While the topic of taboo was prominent at group meetings, the same group members tended to claim in the interviews that they had not experienced it. To explore the issue of taboo, beyond affirmation or denial of its existence, we analyzed how the bereaved navigated the topic of suicide in language using Werner’s psychological theory of metaphor, which argues that metaphors arise to circumvent explicit reference to tabooed subjects. Members of the grief group clearly developed different strategies of metaphorical and other linguistic rephrasing to deal with the topics of death and suicide. Additionally, their language use differed depending on the person’s attitude toward the suicide, whether he or she was alone or with other group members, as well as whether the general public was being framed as an out-group.
TidsskriftCulture & Psychology
Udgave nummer3
Sider (fra-til)369-383
StatusUdgivet - sep. 2020

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