Continuing Bonds

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.

And this is a shame.


Because narrative therapy seems almost custom-made for death-grief.

In fact, I’d say it’s the single-best therapy modality for healing death-grief.

And, yes, CBE is pretty much narrative therapy redressed. CBE is simply a generalized term that’s used more in research than it is in a therapy room.

The narrative exercise of Life Imprinting is a great example of continuing bonds. So is the exercise Personal Pilgrimage. Linking Objects, as well.

On…and on…and on the list goes.

In truth, CBE is little more than a narrative approach to grief…

No matter how any researcher or therapist may be framing it.

Thanks for your question.

Until next time…

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