The Continuing Bonds Project (2016-18) was initially a two-year Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded collaboration between archaeology and healthcare at the University of Bradford and LOROS Hospice, Leicester.
In 2020, we have further collaborated with psychology professionals and developed a CPD toolkit which will soon be freely available for download. The toolkit centres around using archaeological and ethnographic case studies as a means to open up conversation about death, dying and bereavement between professional and client. Collaboration was done in association with colleagues from Trinity College Dublin, Manchester Metropolitan University and Cruse Bereavement Care.
Continuing Bonds stemmed from recognition that discussions around death and dying are often taboo subjects in our modern-day society and that, as such, conversations surrounding the wishes of loved ones are frequently left until the last minute, or not discussed at all. The aim of the project was to see whether archaeology could help in this.
Archaeology demonstrates that attitudes towards death and dying in the past have not always been so ‘closed’, and the archaeological (and ethnographic) record demonstrates a huge variety in the ways in which people have dealt with mortality over many millennia. In fact, the project took its name from the concept that establishing ‘continuing bonds’ with the dead can be as, if not more, beneficial for the bereaved than attempting total emotional severance after a prescribed period of mourning.
We found that introducing health professionals and students to some of this material facilitated discussion around the topic and challenged modern western attitudes to death, dying and bereavement. To find out more, download our newsletters (Jan 2018; Jun 2018), explore our websites (https://continuingbonds.live/; https://www.brad.ac.uk/life-sciences/arch-sci/research/continuing-bonds/) or join the conversation via Twitter (#continuingbonds)
You can read about the project findings here: Croucher K, Büster L, Dayes J, Green L, Raynsford J, Comerford Boyes L, and C. Faull (2020) Archaeology and contemporary death: Using the past to provoke, challenge and engage. PLoS ONE 15(12): e0244058. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0244058 https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0244058