Caring after death: issues of embodiment and relationality

Ribbens McCarthy, Jane (2012). Caring after death: issues of embodiment and relationality. In: Rogers, Chrissie and Weller, Susie eds. Critical Approaches to Care: Understanding Caring Relations, Identities and Cultures. Relationships and resources. London: Routledge, pp. 183–194.



Death most fundamentally would seem to concern the absence of presence, and the loss of the living embodied other is the apparently hard inescapable truth to be faced. This brings sharply into relief the part that bodies play in our relationships and in caring for others. In this chapter I explore the significance of the absence and presence of material bodies for care practices, and for the understandings of relationality that may underpin caring after death. At the same time I also consider the bodies of the living and the ways in which grief and loss may be experienced as physical pain in one's own body. Drawing on published autobiographical materials, I suggest that the relationality of caring - even in contemporary US and European societies - may incorporate an embodied relational self in which threats to the physical wellbeing of another may be experienced directly as implicating one's own physical wellbeing. Such 'embodied relationality' highlights one of the deep paradoxes in the costs and benefits of care, which arise when we recognise how individual well-being and flourishing may be bound up with that of others.

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