Vanessa Bravo publishes article examining transnational grief among Latinos in the U.S.

The School of Communications professor analyzed the communication processes of undocumented Latino immigrants in the United States when relatives get sick or die in their countries of origin.

Assistant Professor Vanesso Bravo
Vanessa Bravo, assistant professor in the School of Communications, published an article, titled “Coping with dying and deaths at home: how undocumented migrants in the United States experience the process of transnational grieving,” in the double-blind, peer-reviewed journal Mortality: Promoting the Interdisciplinary Study of Death and Dying.

According to the abstract, this qualitative study explores the way in which a group of 12 undocumented migrants from Latin America who live in the United States have experienced the process of coping with dying and with deaths in their home countries. 

The paper argues that the grieving process is unique for a group like this, where the undocumented status means that the migrants cannot go back home to help the dying, support the ones left behind, or receive consolation. The sadness and guilt experienced in the process have particular characteristics when you are undocumented in a host country, and the mechanisms used to cope with the situation are different than if you are at home or away but are free to travel back and forth. One avenue for coping, for instance, is the use of communication technologies to create the illusion of “being there,” even when that is not an option.

In its Methodology section, the paper reads: “This study is part of a larger qualitative project in which the author interviewed 32 undocumented migrants from Latin America (from five different countries), who live either in North Carolina or New York. Among those 32 participants, 12 North Carolina-based undocumented migrants from Mexico (six), El Salvador (three) and Costa Rica (three) have faced, at some point in the two years before the interviews took place, the situation of being in the host country while having a crisis at home: a relative in the process of dying or a close family member who passed away in the homeland. The insights from those 12 in-depth interviews, in which the topic of coping with deaths at home emerged organically, without being part of the initial questionnaire, were used to write this paper.”

​With support of the Association for the Study of Death and Society, Taylor & Francis publishes Mortality: Promoting the Interdisciplinary Study of Death and Dying four times a year.

Bravo joined the School of Communications in fall 2011. In the last five years, she has authored seven peer-reviewed journal articles, two conference proceedings and two book chapters.