Article

Bereavement and Grief

Kathrin Boerner

in Psychology

ISBN: 9780199828340
Published online November 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0011
Bereavement and Grief

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The field of bereavement and grief focuses on the human experience of loss in response to the death of a loved one. The term bereavement refers to the objective status of a person who has suffered the loss of someone significant. Grief, on the other hand, refers to the emotional experience of the psychological, behavioral, social, and physical reactions to one’s loss (see the first chapter of Stroebe, et al. 2008, cited in General Overviews). Early writings on bereavement and grief were guided heavily by the psychoanalytic traditions. They were based on clinical observation and a very limited empirical database. The focus was on the intense distress people are thought to experience following the death of a loved one, and on the need to work through this distress in order to recover from the loss and be able to move on with one’s life. For a long time, popular and professional ways of thinking about bereavement were strongly influenced by this literature, without having been put to any serious empirical test. Over the past few decades, however, the field has developed into a scientific discipline with high methodological standards and an accumulating number of sound empirical studies, which have greatly contributed to our current understanding of grief. One of the most groundbreaking findings from this research is probably the pervasive insight that there is extraordinary variability in how people react to the death of a loved one. While some people are devastated and never again seem to regain their emotional equilibrium, others emerge from the loss relatively unscathed and perhaps even strengthened. An important focus of current bereavement research is to better understand this variability in response to bereavement, to find ways of identifying those who are at risk for developing long-term difficulties following the death of a loved one, and to provide them with the appropriate support or treatment. The first section of this bibliography introduces general overviews of the field of bereavement, including three influential handbooks of bereavement research that appeared in the literature between 1993 and 2008. This is followed by a section on journals that primarily focus on bereavement issues. The remaining sections examine specific areas and perspectives in the field of bereavement in more detail. This selective review highlights works pertaining to what are to date considered traditional views on grief, followed by a description of current theoretical models and thinking. Next, research areas in which a striking increase in knowledge has occurred (i.e., grief trajectories, caregiving and bereavement, continuing bonds, risk factors, and complicated grief) receive particular attention. This is followed by a selective review of literature with a focus on specific relationship perspectives in terms of who died (i.e., loss of spouse, child, parent, or sibling), as well as sections dedicated to often unacknowledged bereavement situations, referred to as “disenfranchised grief,” and different cultural perspectives on grief. The bibliography concludes with coverage of discussions about supportive interventions in the context of bereavement.

Article.  11152 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Developmental Psychology ; Health Psychology ; History and Systems in Psychology ; Educational Psychology ; Social Psychology

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