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Keywords:

  • bereavement;
  • support groups;
  • self-help groups;
  • peer-professional partners

Seniors are most vulnerable to conjugal bereavement. Although social support buffers the effects of bereavement, widows and widowers have lower levels of social support than married individuals. Self-help/support groups can supplement support from their depleted natural networks. Accordingly, the aim of this demonstration project was to examine the impact of support groups on widowed seniors' loneliness, affect, and perceived support. Four face-to-face support groups for widowed seniors were conducted weekly for a maximum of 20 weeks.

Participants completed pretest, posttest, and delayed posttest measures of support need and support satisfaction, positive and negative affect, and loneliness/isolation. The statistically significant impacts of the intervention were enhanced support satisfaction, diminished support needs, and increased positive affect. There was a trend toward decreased social isolation and emotional loneliness. In postintervention semistructured interviews, bereaved seniors reported increased hope, improved skills in developing social relationships, enhanced coping, new role identities, and less loneliness. Community health nurse researchers could conduct randomized controlled trials of face-to-face and telephone support groups for bereaved people of all ages. Community health nurse practitioners could benefit from lessons learned about timing, duration, and selection of sensitive outcomes.