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12-01-2017 | Uitgave 1/2017

Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy 1/2017

Spiritual Distress and Depression in Bereavement: A Meaning-Oriented Contribution

Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy > Uitgave 1/2017
Robert A. Neimeyer, Laurie A. Burke


One key focus of a meaning reconstruction model of bereavement concerns spiritual meanings attributed to the death, whether consoling or troubling. Specifically, previous studies in our research program suggest that religiously inclined violent death survivors are at risk for elevated levels of both bereavement distress and complicated spiritual grief, a crisis of faith following loss that refers to the erosion of the mourner’s relationship to God and/or the religious community. However, more research is needed to understand the convergence of depression and spiritual struggle in the context of violent and natural loss. In this study of a diverse sample of 59 American Christians bereaved less than 5 years, we sought to: (1) determine if individuals bereaved by homicide, suicide or fatal accident differed from those bereaved by natural causes in their levels of depression and spiritual coping; (2) investigate the relation between the latter constructs; and (3) ascertain if cause of death mediates the effect of religious coping on depression. We found that: (a) violently bereaved individuals endorsed more negative religious coping, and (b) depression was associated with greater spiritual struggle, particularly a sense of disrupted relationship with God. Contrary to expectations, positive religious coping was unrelated to post-loss depression, and cause of death did not mediate the relationship between spiritual coping and depressive symptomatology. A clinical case study concludes the article, illustrating the interweaving of spiritual and psychological distress in tragic bereavement, and their implications for a meaning-oriented grief therapy.

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