A Conceptualization of Sufjan Stevens’s Bereavement Process as Seen in his Album, Carrie, and Lowell Through Several Contemporary Mechanisms for Grief and Bereavement




Picker, Jake

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Sufjan Stevens is a singer-songwriter with a very complicated relationship with his mother, Carrie. She struggled with mental illness and substance dependency and eventually left Sufjan and the rest of her family when he was only one year old. Carrie would eventually reconnect with Sufjan in Eugene, Oregon for several summers throughout his early childhood. During these summers, Sufjan grew closer with his mother and would provide him with the memories he would later reflect upon after her death. When Carrie died in 2012, Sufjan spiraled into depression and experienced a prolonged and deeply painful bereavement process. To grieve his loss, find meaning through his experiences, and organize his thoughts about his mother, Sufjan channeled his grief into his music and produced eleven songs about his bereavement process. This thesis aims to conceptualize the grief Sufjan sings about within this album by analyzing the lyrics through the perspectives of four mechanisms for grief and bereavement. I will use models on grief and bereavement by Hoy (2016), Worden (2018), Gillies and Niemeyer (2006), and Stroebe and Schut (2010) in my analysis.