Prolonged Grief

Grief is a normal reaction to loss, but sometimes grief lasts longer than expected.

Grief is the natural emotional and psychobiological response to the passing of a loved one (pp. 884–885). Grieving often comprises the painful yearning and eagerness for the deceased that may relate to several intense and debilitating feelings and physical, cognitive, and other reactions. Even though grieving may be extremely challenging and painful, for most bereaved persons, the intensity of grief-related distress often decreases progressively over time, and they slowly adapt to a life that does not comprise the deceased (p. 885). However, some persons struggle with adapting to the loss and experience of prolonged grief.

The ICD-11 recognizes prolonged grief disorder by the symptoms of far-too-long-lasting or all-encompassing yearning or preoccupation with the those that passed, accompanied by intense emotional pain (e.g., sadness, guilt, anger, challenge accepting the loss, and an inability to experience a positive mood). For the disorder to be diagnosed, these symptoms must last at minimum six months and must impede functioning in vital areas of a person’s life.

Consistent with meaning reconstruction theory, the loss of a loved one may violate fundamental assumptions about a person’s self and the surrounding world, where both provide the foundation for a meaningful and expected belief system that supports the person in day-to-day life. Worldview is considered an essential component in coping with the passing of a loved one; however, little research has been done examining how personal attitudes toward death relate to prolonged grief (Gegieckaite & Kazlauskas, 2022, p. 892). In their study of bereaved adults, Gegieckaite and Kazlauskas (2022) focused on analyzing death attitudes and their connection with prolonged grief. They found that death attitudes were associated with sociodemographic and loss-related factors and that fear of death was linked with prolonged grief. Fear of death was not connected with any of the loss-related factors examined in this study (pp. 892–893), and it was not significantly different among religious and non-religious participants; however, this was negatively linked with the frequency of practicing religion.

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Gegieckaite, G., & Kazlauskas, E. (2022). Fear of death and death acceptance among bereaved adults: Associations with prolonged grief. Omega, 84(3), 884–898.