Theses Doctoral

Patterns and Outcomes of Bereavement Support-Seeking Among Older Adults with Complicated Grief and Bereavement-Related Depression

Ghesquiere, Angela Rosabelle

The dissertation aims to enhance knowledge about bereavement support-seeking among older adults with Complicated Grief (CG) and/or depression and to examine the outcomes of support received. This three-paper dissertation uses data from two studies of bereaved older adults: the Changing Lives of Older Couples (CLOC) Study and the Complicated Grief Treatment in Older Adults (CGTOA) Study. The dissertation draws upon Pescosolido and colleagues' Network Episode Model to frame the exploration of support-seeking. Paper 1 is based on qualitative interviews with eight older adults with CG who completed participation in a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) funded randomized clinical trial of CG treatment, the CGTOA study, and seeks to better understand the bereavement support- seeking process. Several primary themes arose, including observing that grief was causing a great deal of emotional distress and role impairment, grief not meeting their own or others' expectations of what grief "should be," influences of social relationships on support-seeking, and a lack of effectiveness of support groups and/or care from mental health professionals. Papers 2 and 3 use secondary analyses of longitudinal surveys from the CLOC Study, a representative community sample of widowed older adults. Paper 2 describes support sought for grief at 6, 18, and 48 months post-widowhood, including religious leader, support group, and family doctor support, and examines the influence of social network variables, the presence of CG and depression, and other demographic (gender, education, age, race, income, and home ownership) and clinical variables (health satisfaction, anxiety severity, attachment anxiety, attachment avoidance) on support sought. Approximately 20% of the sample sought multiple types of support concurrently. Social network, clinical and demographic variables also varied across types of support sought. For example, the presence of CG was associated with a greater likelihood of seeking support, and low instrumental support increased the odds of going to family doctors for support with grief. There were also significant associations between types of support sought. Paper 3 determined whether utilization of bereavement supports at 6 months post-loss was associated with reductions in emotional distress (grief, depression, or anxiety) at 18 months in widows with CG or depression in the CLOC sample. Using a self-help or support group reduced grief symptoms, but did not significantly alter depression or anxiety symptoms. Seeking support from a religious leader decreased depression, but not grief or anxiety. Seeking support from a family doctor did not impact anxiety, depression or grief. Discussion sections for each paper and a conclusion section for the entire dissertation summarize study findings, identify limitations, and detail implications for practice, research, and policy.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Social Work
Thesis Advisors
Shear, Katherine
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 9, 2012