Van het lot een plot maken: over narratieve zingeving bij rouw in Nederlandse bestsellers


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When a loved one dies, the bereaved are faced with the immense challenge of integrating the loss into their life stories. What does this loss mean? What purpose does it serve? In this dissertation I examine this process of narrative meaning-making more closely. I show that the grief experience is narrativized with the help of shared, historically determined, and normatively charged meaning-making models, called ‘grief plots’. I analyse these grief plots in bestselling self-help books, fictional novels, and autobiographically inspired works published in the Netherlands since 2000.

By showing that the personal experience of grief obtains meaning with the help of shared cultural and historical materials, I problematise the popular idea that grief is unique. I further argue that the disappearance of collective rituals have not left a normative vacuum, as some experts claim, but that a normative pluralism seems to persist instead. Through the grief plots different and sometimes even conflicting conceptions are circulated with regard to the duration and end point of grief, the best way of coping with it, the role of the social environment, and the place of the deceased in the lives of the bereaved. Finally, the research broadens and refines the psychological concept of ‘posttraumatic growth’ by showing that ‘growth’ can have different meanings, depending on the worldview that informs the emplotment of grief. Moreover, ‘growth’ is not the only way of creating meaning out of loss: in the bestsellers we also encounter the motives of ‘healing,’ ‘seeking,’ and ‘resisting’.
Originele taal-2Dutch
KwalificatieDoctor of Philosophy
Toekennende instantie
  • Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
  • Korthals Altes, Elisabeth, Supervisor
  • Jedan, Christoph, Supervisor
Datum van toekenning13-apr.-2023
Plaats van publicatie[Groningen]
StatusPublished - 2023

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