Researching and Applying Metaphor Seminar, 16th – 19th May

From 16th – 19th May 2017, three of the team (Jeannette Littlemore, Sarah Turner and Meera Burgess) were at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, Denmark attending the 6th Specialised RaAM (Researching and Applying Metaphor) Seminar.

The goal of this seminar was to begin to bring metaphor research in line with new insights from the field of cognitive science. In brief, metaphor can be seen as something we ‘do’ – it is not an isolated process in the mind, but something we can enact as we make sense of the world around us. We thought this was particularly relevant to our project as a lot of our preliminary analyses have highlighted the role of ritual and memory-making in the grieving process following pregnancy loss.

We delivered a talk on our first findings, looking in particular at the pilot study we have completed on how baby loss is talked about, both by the bereaved and by those who support them. This study used data gathered from a number of sources: meetings with stakeholder groups and project partners, hospital information leaflets, interviews with medical practitioners, and the parliamentary debate in October 2016 on the occasion of Baby Loss Awareness Week (you can read the whole transcript of the debate here). In particular, we wanted to introduce some of the main themes that have come out of this preliminary analysis, which we’ll be taking up in our future research:

  • How do people talk about the loss of their pregnancy? What is it that is ‘lost’? We found in our data that there were many references to the loss of future life; it isn’t just a baby that is lost, but the whole life that they would have had with their child.
  • How do people describe their feelings surrounding the loss? We picked out two particularly strong themes here. One was the loss of agency, with people who have experienced pregnancy loss explaining how they felt that they had lost control of their lives. The other related to the difficulties in talking about what they have experienced, both due to the enduring ‘taboo’ around pregnancy loss in society, and because it is simply too painful to articulate.
  • What is the role of material memories such as memory boxes, mementos and memorials? How do these things help the bereaved? What do the bereaved do to mark their loss?

The seminar was a very interesting and thought-provoking event, which has given us plenty to consider as we prepare to collect and analyse our data.