Continuing bonds in adjustment to bereavement: Impact of abrupt versus gradual separation

Authors

  • MARGARET S. STROEBE,

    Corresponding author
    1. Utrecht University, The Netherlands
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    • Margaret S. Stroebe, Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands;

  • GEORGIOS ABAKOUMKIN,

    1. University of Thessaly, Greece
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    • Georgios Abakoumkin, Department of Preschool Education, University of Thessaly, Volos, Greece;

  • WOLFGANG STROEBE,

    1. Utrecht University, The Netherlands
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    • Wolfgang Stroebe and Henk Schut, Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

  • HENK SCHUT

    1. Utrecht University, The Netherlands
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    • Wolfgang Stroebe and Henk Schut, Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Margaret S. Stroebe, Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 80.140, 3508 TC Utrecht, The Netherlands, e-mail: m.s.stroebe@uu.nl.

Abstract

There is debate whether continuing bonds with a deceased person help or hinder adaptation to bereavement. This longitudinal study examined causal relationships between continuing bonds and symptoms over time. Following attachment theory predictions, suddenness of separation was examined as a moderator. Data were obtained from 60 bereaved spouses at 3 points across the first 2 years of bereavement. Measures included expectedness of death, grief and depression measures, and a continuing bonds index. Persons with unexpected loss who retained strong bonds were the least well adapted and remained so over time. Those with expected loss and strong ties suffered initially but improved. Those with weaker ties had lower scores on maladaptation, regardless of (un)expectedness of death. Theoretical and applied implications are discussed.

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