Original Research

Nostalgia as a pastoral–hermeneutical key for healing complicated grief in an Afro-Christian context

Alfred R. Brunsdon
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 40, No 1 | a1918 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v40i1.1918 | © 2019 Alfred R. Brunsdon | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 July 2018 | Published: 11 April 2019

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Alfred R. Brunsdon, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Mahikeng, South Africa

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This research engaged complicated grief in an Afro-Christian context. The Afro-Christian context was described as one where traditional African beliefs form the bedrock of a unique strand of Christian faith. Christians within the philosophical and spiritual category of the African context harbour a unique outlook on death and, therefore, approach loss in a way that still embraces traditional views regarding the role of the departed. This provides for an extended grieving process, which opens the door for complicated grief as opposed to the notion of uncomplicated grief. The Christian text, where the resurrection of Christ stands central, challenges African views on the role of the departed and opens possibilities for the healing of complicated grief. In the light of this, nostalgia is investigated as a pastoral–hermeneutical key to understand and challenge the phenomenon of complicated grief in an Afro-Christian context. While nostalgia denotes a longing for the past, the distinction between restorative and reflective nostalgia provides valuable possibilities for pastoral work with complicated grief. It was argued that restorative nostalgia is indicative of attempts to restore the past and reflective nostalgia is indicative of a willingness to accept reality based on a cognitive and spiritual realisation that the past cannot be retrieved. It is thus contended that much pastoral potential resides within the notion of nostalgia when deployed in the context of complicated grief in an Afro-Christian context.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The contextualisation of practical theology and pastoral care in the African context requires an interdisciplinary approach which is mindful of the African context, the Christian faith as well the variegated contexts in which Africans currently live and believe.


pastoral care; Afro-Christian context; complicated grief; nostalgia; restorative nostalgia; reflective nostalgia


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