A study of complicated grief symptoms in people with intellectual disabilities


Dr Philip Dodd, St Michael's House, Adare Green, Coolock Dublin 17, Dublin, Ireland (e-mail: philip.dodd@smh.ie).


Introduction  Previous studies have shown a significant association between familial bereavement and the onset of challenging behaviours and psychopathology in people with intellectual disabilities (ID). However, little work has been done to accurately describe the specific symptoms of grief, in particular symptoms of complicated grief in this population. Consensus criteria for the diagnosis of complicated grief have been drawn up and tested for validity in the general population.

Aims  To examine the occurrence of symptoms of complicated grief, and to explore the relationships between complicated grief and bereavement experience.

Method  A bereavement history questionnaire and a newly developed measure examining for symptoms of complicated grief were administered to a group of carers of people with mild or moderate ID, who had experienced a parental bereavement within the previous 2 years. The questionnaires were also administered to a matched comparison group, who had not been bereaved.

Results/Conclusions  This carer-based comparison study has revealed that bereaved individuals with ID experience complicated grief symptoms following the death of a parent, with one-third of the bereaved group experiencing 10 or more clinically apparent symptoms. In addition, complicated grief symptoms were more likely to occur with higher rates of bereavement ritual involvement. These findings have both clinical and research implications.