Continuing Bonds

From time to time, I receive emails I feel should be answered in a public forum, like this blog. A great email here regarding continuing bonds:

Hey, Nelson

I’m a person going through some intense grief right now. It came out of nowhere. I’m not in therapy yet. I’ll probably go soon, because I think everyone should get therapy for grief. But right now, I read as much as I can about grief.

And that brings me to my email. What exactly is “continuing bond expression”? And is it the same thing as narrative therapy?

– Sobbing Serena


Sobbing Serena

Good question. Really good question. Actually…great question!

First off, let’s explain and define what the term “continuing bonds” is and where it came from.

The truth of the matter is, continuing bond expression (CBE) was first coined in a 1996 book authored by researchers Klass, Silverman, and Nickman entitled Continuing Bonds: New Understandings of Grief.

For the record, 1996 is more than a decade after Michael White and colleague David Epston created the formal concept of narrative therapy.

Anyway, the idea behind continuing bonds is that the most effective model of bereavement is not one of “letting go” but instead one of “hanging on.”

For those that reference actual grief research—as in journal articles—you’ll find a lot of research that refers to “continuing bond expression.”

Yet, beyond the topic of meaning reconstruction, you won’t find a ton of research about narrative therapy’s application to death-grief.

It must be noted, though, that continuing bond expression is much more than just a narrative therapy exercise. It’s actually an experiential therapy approach. In fact, there are many more expressive arts exercises that support continuing bond expression than there are narrative therapy tactics that do the same.

But both experiential approaches do a great job of supporting continue bonds. And experiential therapy, as a whole, is seemingly custom-built for death-grief.

Great examples of continuing bond techniques are Life Imprinting, Personal Pilgrimage, and Linking Objects.

There are many more, as well.

Thanks for your question.

Until next time…

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