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Keywords:

  • grief;
  • death of a spouse;
  • social support

Grief and social support after the death of a spouse

The death of a spouse is one of the most stressful events in a person’s life. Social support has been shown to be widely beneficial in moderating the effects of both chronic and acute stress. The answers of Finnish widows and widowers (n=318) were analysed in order to investigate the sources of social support, what is the nature of support received, and whether social support is connected with coping with grief. The Hogan Grief Reactions Checklist was used to describe the grief as well as answers to open-ended questions about what helped the widowed persons cope with their grief. Kahn’s theory of social support was used as a framework in the content analysis of the open-ended answers. The results showed that Finnish widows and widowers receive social support most often from their own family and friends. They perceived the received support most helpful, but also the support that the grieving person can give to other family members is seen as important. Results suggest that those who had had social support were able to grieve by allowing themselves to disorganize and experience panic behaviour.