OMEGA, Vol. 50(3) 197-215, 2004-2005
THE USE OF THE SUBJUNCTIVE IN RE-MEMBERING CONVERSATIONS WITH THOSE WHO ARE GRIEVING*
LORRAINE HEDTKE, MSW, ACSW, LCSW VITAS Innovative Hospice Care JOHN WINSLADE, PH.D. California State University San Bernardino
The subjunctive voice is often disparaged as no longer of any use in the English language. Here it is argued to have a special place in the construction of possibility in therapeutic conversation with persons who are grieving. In particular, the subjunctive is illustrated in a case study of a re-membering conversation; that is, one in which relational and community membership is considered to live on in a narrative sense after biological death. The argument is that such conversations can produce more sustenance for people in a time of grief than the usual emphasis on confronting “reality” and accepting loss.
W. Somerset Maugham announced in 1949 that, “The subjunctive mood is in its death throes, and the best thing to do is to put it out of its misery as soon as possible” (Maugham, 1949, p. 323). A few years later, H. L. Mencken agreed, “The subjunctive is virtually extinct in the vulgar tongue” (Mencken, 1956, p. 368). Our intention in this article is to contest these claims. We find an important purpose for this aspect of discourse usage in the development of re-membering
*An earlier version of this article was presented in a keynote address by Lorraine Hedtke at the Dulwich Centre Summer School of Narrative Practice in Adelaide, Australia, in November 2003. We would like to acknowledge Cheryl White, David Denborough, and Virginia Leak for this opportunity and for encouraging the development of these ideas. 197 Ó 2005, Baywood Publishing Co., Inc.
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conversations with someone who has experienced the death of a loved one. We would argue that the deliberate use of subjunctive verbs in such conversations can be valuable in the scaffolding of sustaining narratives...