Understanding Loss and Grief for Women
A New Perspective on Their Pain and Healing
by Robert W. Buckingham, DrPH, and Peggy A. Howard, PhD
May 2017, 179pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-5782-9
$41, £31, 36€, A56
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-5783-6
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

There are many reasons why it is important to understand what women experience in loss and aid them in their grief response. One reason is that women are expected to outlive men at an increasing rate.

This book can enhance everyone's understanding of how women experience loss and grief, and how they transition to resolution. It is an invaluable resource to women and everyone who supports them—spouses, partners, and family members as well as community and government.

Women’s grief is often a complex phenomenon—a natural, normal experience, but one that can seriously impact everyone—female or male—at every stage of life. Understanding Loss and Grief for Women: A New Perspective on Their Pain and Healing provides a way to look at how women experience loss through the lens of their socially constructed roles, and in light of the theories and practice of grief therapy and support.

The book begins by explaining the social construction of women’s traditional, transitional, and modern/postmodern roles, and then addresses the social construction of grief theory and practice in past eras and modern society. Several case studies enable readers to see how social constructs shape women’s responses to various causes of grief, such as the death of a spouse or partner, child, marriage (divorce), and career (retirement). The final section of the book examines the health impacts of grief, offers suggestions to ameliorate negative health impacts, and emphasizes how loss and grief for women can be used as opportunities for self-growth.

This book serves all members of the general population as well as educators, academics, scientists, and students of disciplines such as psychology, psychotherapy, medicine, sociology, and women’s studies. It will enable all women to better understand, deal with, and heal from their loss and grief experience. Male readers will empathize with what their spouses/partners, mothers, grandmothers, siblings, and friends are experiencing in loss and grief and understand how to support healthy transition through grief to resolution. The community at large and care providers will learn how to create a more nurturing and supportive environment for women’s grief response.


  • Explicates the socially constructed roles of women, in the past and in modern society, to illustrate what has been considered "appropriate" expression and response to loss and grief for women, and to enable a unique understanding the phenomenal loss experience for women
  • Presents an invaluable framework, as a scaffolding, that allows readers to interrogate their own and others' experiences of loss in a novel, more in-depth way—one that supports improved practice in the helping professions
  • Includes women's real-life stories that tell their truths of the loss experience and how grief worked through them in transitioning to resolution
  • Provides seminal information to professional grief counselors, physicians, nurses, clinical psychologists, and psychiatric social workers, as well as students of psychology, sociology, medicine, public health, and women's studies
  • Allows family members, friends, or partners to better understand what a woman who is experiencing loss and grief is feeling, and instructs how to support healthy transition through grief to resolution
Robert W. Buckingham, DrPH, is Professor of Public Health at the University of Michigan–Flint. He sits on the Board of Directors of the Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region (ASPHER) and is the former founding dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. A graduate of Yale School of Medicine, Buckingham is a pioneer in the development of hospice programs in the United States and worldwide, and he has established clinics and orphanages in Thailand, Africa, and Honduras. He is author of 11 books, several of which are on hospice and palliative care. Buckingham received the 2014 Nelson Mandela Award for Academic Leadership presented by Harvard University, and he was honored by the Russian Institute of Health with the 2006 Ivanosky Prize for Humanitarian Medicine for work with people with HIV and AIDS.

Peggy A. Howard, PhD, holds a doctorate in policy and administration from the University of Alberta, Canada. Since 1994, she has been a private-sector consultant whose expertise lies in the design and implementation of multiyear, multilevel evaluations in health and social service sectors. She has worked with diverse populations including palliative care patients, HIV clients, survivors of torture and trauma, victims of family violence, Aboriginal people, and immigrants. In rural development, Howard has assessed initiatives aimed at improving economic growth and sustainability, community capacity building, improved access to learning and skill building opportunities, and improved access to health services. She also facilitated development of Alberta's policy on elder abuse, and she has developed Social Sustainability Plans at the municipal government level. A SSHRC scholar and phenomenologist, Howard's research has been published in journals such as Journal of Education Policy, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, and Phenomenology and Pedagogy.


"This impressive book is an excellent addition to the existing literature on critical issues facing women who are dealing with loss and grief. The text is extremely helpful in assisting women in transition through their grief to find resolution, peace, and growth through a very difficult time in their lives."—Bill Richardson, MA, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, former U.S. Secretary of Energy, former two-time Governor of New Mexico, four-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee

"Buckingham and Howard’s book provides an important contribution to the study of bereavement, with an insightful gender-specific perspective on coping with loss and grief. Because of the position women hold in society and their social responsibility, the way they experience loss is unique. By looking at grief through this gendered prism, we have more clarity on how to support women and the people they support. I recommend this book to all who have suffered a loss and those who are close to them."—Michelle A. Williams, ScD, Dean of Faculty, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

"Modern western societies have only recently been willing to talk openly about death and dying, loss of loved ones, palliative care and grieving. This book offers insights within the historical and gender context as to why this has been so challenging and why it is time to rethink our societal and personal acceptance of death, dying and grief. This is not only important reading for women suffering or facing the loss of a loved one but also for the people around her. The more men that read this book the greater will be their own understanding of the women close to them and the issues they face not only in the context of grief but also in life generally."—Michael Moore, President, World Federation of Public Health Associations; CEO, Public Health Association of Australia; four-term Minster of Health and Community Care; Adjunct Professor, University of Canberra

"This is an important book that informs our understanding of women's loss and grief, and points to proactive approaches to healing."—Peter MacKinnon, OC QC, Order of Canada, Past President, University of Saskatchewan

"As one of the founders of Hospice in the United States, Dr. Buckingham along with his coauthor, Dr. Peggy Howard, bring a fresh and needed perspective to the literature which broadens the reader’s understanding of the universal experience of loss and grief. The attention given to the social construction of grief viewed from a cultural perspective gives an insightful lens through which to view changing roles of women today and differing responses to loss and grief of significant relationships and social identities. The case studies presented illustrate well the journey of grief. A must-read for health professionals and all of us who inevitably travel this road."—Suzanne Selig, PhD, MPH, MSW, Director, Public Health and Health Sciences, University of Michigan, Flint

"Perspective is a fresh look at understanding the impact and loss and grief of women in our culture. While grief is complicated for everyone, the unique role women have in dealing with their own losses, as well as those of their loved ones, puts additional pressures on women to cope quickly and to help others in need. I recommend this book without hesitation. As a clinician who has been working with grief and loss for many years, this book is a must-read."—Donald Schumacher, PsyD, President and CEO, National Hospice and Pallative Care Organizations, U.S.

"For women responding to or preparing for loss, and for anyone desiring to support others coping with loss, this thoughtful book will help the reader understand women’s individual responses to grief, appreciate their personal resiliency, and have hope for eventual recovery. Buckingham and Howard compellingly present the grieving process for women as a healthy, transformational opportunity. From the earliest days of Hospice care in the U.S., Robert Buckingham has effectively addressed the most difficult topics in thanatology. Now, he and coauthor Peggy Howard bring to light a long-neglected aspect of the discussion in this engaging and important book."—William G. Faraclas, DrPH, Professor of Public Health, Department of Public Health, Southern Connecticut State University

"Public Health has to recognize and study all of the factors which can affect the wellbeing of vulnerable communities. If we better understand loss and grief for women, we will be better equipped to help them. These authors’ analysis is undoubtedly a precious contribution."—Laurent Chambeau, MD, Dean, EHESP French School of Public Health, France

"'Everyone hugs you when your husband dies. Very few hug you when you get a divorce,' says a bereaved woman. Yet, undeniably, both are experiences of loss that may lead to profound grief. Peggy Howard and Robert Buckingham have written an eloquent and thoughtful text that gives surprising insights into the history, psychology, and social complexities of women’s experiences of various kinds of grief. While loss is levitas that lessens life, grief is gravitas that makes heavier. Howard and Buckingham show how loss, and the grief it causes, may seriously unsettle but they also may deepen and strengthen us."—Max Van Manen, PhD, EdD (Hon), Professor Emeritus, University of Alberta, Adjunct Professor, University of Victoria

"The authors have deftly tackled a complex but very important subject. Should be required reading for all primary and palliative care doctors."—Robert S. Weiner, MD, Medical Director, Kauai Hospice

"This book is relevant to women and men alike in that it details the historical and socio-structural account of our post-modern societies. The key message that grief is largely determined by cultural and gender specific norms, offers a broader understanding of the complexity and individuality of grief and mourning, as well as the intergenerational effects of grief suppression."—Ulrich Laaser, Dr. Med, DTM&H, MPH, Past President of the World Federation of Public Health Associations, the Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region, and the German Association for Health Sciences and Public Health

"This book makes a timely and important contribution to our ways of understanding and engaging grief. Drs. Buckingham and Howard have developed an excellent tool to assist women with moving through our grief more wholly, increasing the possibilities for healing and growth."—Susan Borrego, PhD, Chancellor, University of Michigan, Flint

"This is a ‘must-read’ for people wanting an excellent guide to understanding women, loss, and grief. The reader will garner a greater understanding of the impact of loss, and clearer insights and tools, to support women and their mindfulness of the distinctive character of their own grieving."—Lori J. Miller, PhD, Executive Director, Kaua’i Hospice, Inc.

“There are many mediators of the mourning process of which gender is an important one. Gender responses to loss are fashioned and shaped by both culture and history. In this book Buckingham and Howard lead the reader to think about women’s grief and how gender affects their response to loss, not only by death but also to life losses such as divorce, health changes, and retirement. This book provides a perspective for both men and women to understand how women integrate loss into their lives as we emerge into a postmodern age.”—J. William Worder, PhD, ABPP, Clinical Psychologist, and Author of Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy: A Handbook for the Mental Health Practioner
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