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Keywords:

  • grief;
  • memory;
  • self;
  • cognition;
  • imagination

Abstract

Background: Complicated Grief (CG) is a chronic and debilitating consequence of bereavement. Although sharing features with depression and anxiety, CG is associated with independent negative health outcomes. Despite these significant health costs, relatively little is known about the cognitive mechanisms that contribute to the maintenance of CG. The ability to envisage the future is important for adaptive functioning. This study investigates future-related thinking in CG. Method: Twenty-one individuals with CG and 24 bereaved individuals without CG were asked to imagine specific events that may take place in their future and recall specific autobiographical memories in response to cue words, and complete a personal goals task. Results: CG participants were less specific in their imagining of future positive events and were more likely to imagine future events relating to their loss. The extent to which individuals were able to imagine a specific future event was significantly correlated with recalling specific memories. The tendency to imagine loss-related events in the future was associated with holding grief-related goals. Conclusions: These results are consistent with propositions of the self-memory system model of autobiographical memory and shed light on factors that may maintain grieving in people affected by CG. Depression and Anxiety, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.