Lorraine Hedtke, USA


Narrative therapy has confronted the way in which grief psychology has pathologised and limited people’s experiences for the past one hundred years. By flipping the ideas upside-down, narrative practice keeps the stories close of those who have died. Folding the stories of the deceased into the accessible stories of those who are still alive, generations of wisdom are being reclaimed.

Michael brought Barbara Myerhoff’s words to life for use in a therapeutic context. As she was an anthropologist, her work was not intended for therapeutic use per se. Michael saw the value in her stories and metaphors and cultivated these ideas for conversational benefits. What resulted was nothing shy of brilliance: re-membering. Re-membering was, and is, one of the revolutions needed to adequately help people whom we serve. It shakes how identity is thought of – from an individual perspective to that of relational import. Re-membering profoundly impacts on conversations with the dying and the bereaved, but with many other types of conversations as well, to open doors that were not available in conventional interpretations of human development and identity construction.

Re-membering is the backbone of much of my professional life. In conversations with the dying and those living with grief, re-membering informs my thoughts and questions. It has also become the basis for developing and establishing therapeutic support groups for bereaved individuals.

Yesterday, I taught about these concepts and their application to a group of graduate students at the university. I shared the aetiology of the terms and the meanings for conversations. While reflecting on the day, people spoke in powerful terms about the way in which their own lives where touched, altered and changed as a result of thinking about a deceased person using Michael’s (and Barbara’s) concept of membership. I commonly encounter this – people’s lives turned in a new direction by the simple understanding of such an important idea. It is the ‘life-saving’ impact of restoration of a relationship with a deceased loved-one, for example, that changes the way a person thinks and experiences life.

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