Economic identities: the experience of loss and transition among people whose partners died
Financial and economic factors contribute to individual and group differences and, for couples, shared or complementary identities. When one partner in a couple dies, what is lost includes identities such as ‘retired person’, ‘family breadwinner’, ‘household manager’, ‘the one who deals with benefits or the tax office’, ‘the one who runs the car’ and the one who controls spending (or does not) or runs up debts (or does not). The feelings attached to such economic constructs of the partner are part of the unique relationship or bond with the person who died, and part of the process of grief. Death of a life partner also requires adjustments for the financial transitions that follow and for establishing a new economic identity. For some, there will be changes in sources and levels of income; different employment opportunities; new tasks such as managing the bank account, buying food or paying bills. New categorisations, such as ‘lone parent’, bring different economic responsibilities and expectations. There are emotional components in all such adjustments and transitions. In this paper, the authors describe how people recently bereaved constructed the economic personhood of the partner who died and how they experienced the financial and economic transitions that followed the death. The authors suggest how emotional response to changing financial circumstances and economic identities may be understood within the psycho-social dual process model of coping with bereavement. The authors draw on their recent study of the financial implications of death of a partner funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council. The research included qualitative interviews with people whose partner died recently and analysis of quantitative data from the British Household Panel Survey.
Ninth International Death Dying and Disposal Conference (DDD9), 9th-12th September 2009, Durham University, UK; Albert Sloman Library Periodicals *restricted to Univ. Essex registered users*