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By On February 23rd, 2007

New findings concerning grief following death in the family

The widely accepted construct of grief progression, called the stage-theory of grief, describes the phases of mourning death. The popular theory, which has been taught in medical schools nation wide, states that disbelief is the initial indicator of grief while depression is the long-term marker. However, a group of researches at Yale University have debunked that theory with the publication of a resent study.

The study, published in the February 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that acceptance is actually the dominate initial grief factor and “yearning for the deceased” is the long-term indicator. Additionally, the study found that the negative emotions associated with grief most often dissipate after six months. According to Paul K. Maciejewski, PhD at Yale and one the authors of the study, grief following death that exceeds six months “suggests the need for further evaluation of the bereaved survivor and potential referral for treatment.”

The following is an excerpt of an article from Medpage Today that reviews the study:

These findings “offer a point of reference for distinguishing between normal and abnormal reactions to loss,” the authors wrote.

Since the negative motions peaked within six months, individuals “who experience any of the indicators beyond six months postloss would appear to deviate from the normal response to loss,” they said.

Grief beyond six months, the researchers said, can be considered a diagnostic criterion for prolonged grief disorder, which would indicate the need for evaluation for psychiatric complications of bereavement, such as major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The authors noted that the study was limited by its design, which delayed assessing individuals until at least a month following the death of a family member and limited follow-up to three sessions. Monthly follow-up, they said, would have provided more data.

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