Journal Article

Complicated Grief in the South African Context: A Social Work Perspective

Cornelia M. Drenth, Alida G. Herbst and Herman Strydom

in The British Journal of Social Work

Volume 43, issue 2, pages 355-372
Published in print March 2013 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online February 2013 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Complicated Grief in the South African Context: A Social Work Perspective

Show Summary Details


Social work in South Africa in the last decade has been shaped by the White Paper for Social Welfare ( Ministry for Welfare and Population Development, 1997) which promotes developmental social services and constitutes both traditional social work and social developmental practices. Little consideration is given in social work literature and within the developmental welfare approach on the bereaved person whose social functioning is impaired by the death experience. South Africa has a generalised HIV epidemic and currently ranks the third highest in the world in terms of the tuberculosis burden. Fatal motor vehicle accidents are a common phenomenon and crime-related deaths are reported daily. Although loss and bereavement may be included in graduate social work education in South Africa, social workers in practice are often not familiar with grief-related intervention. Social work is concerned with loss and therefore also with death and aims to bring a system approach to dying. Grief is regarded as a normal process after the death of a significant person. There is, however, evidence that 10–20 per cent of the bereaved persons may experience prolonged, traumatic or complicated grief. This article explores complicated grief from a South African social work perspective. The discussion starts off with conceptualising complicated grief in South Africa and clarification of the concepts of loss, normal and complicated grief. This is followed by an overview of some risk factors for developing complicated grief. Lastly, the focus is on the role of social work when grief becomes complicated. More research is needed on social work intervention with reference to complicated grief in South Africa.

Keywords: Social work; normal grief; complicated grief; risk factors

Journal Article.  6488 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.