World Mental Healthcare Association

Survivors Of Trauma Experience Persistent Grief Years Later, Study Finds

Survivors Of Trauma Experience
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News: New study finds that people who survive a trauma that resulted in the loss of loved ones present symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder that predict complicated grief — a sense of persistent sadness and an inability to cope — years after the trauma.

In the study published by the American Psychological Association, researchers interviewed 275 survivors of a 2011 domestic terrorist attack on Utøya. Of all the participants, 256 lost a close friend, six lost a family member and 13 lost a close friend and a family member/partner. Participants took part in individual, face-to-face interviews with experienced health care personnel thrice: 4-5 months, 14-15 months and 30-32 months after the attack.

The interview questions include post-traumatic stress symptoms, complicated grief reactions such as interference of grief in their daily life, trouble accepting the death of their loved one. The research team found that participants who reported symptoms of PTSD were significantly more likely to report symptoms of complicated grief as well. But, complicated grief did not predict the development of PTSD.

“Our findings suggest that when treating trauma survivors, targeting symptoms of PTSD early might help them avoid complicated grief later on,” said Kristin Alve Glad, PhD, a researcher at the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies and lead author of the study.

The severe effects of terrorist attack on survivors were not only due to the loss of a loved one but direct exposure to the attack as well. This dual burden of the unexpected loss and the survivor’s high exposure to trauma may result in a different trajectory of PTSD symptoms and complicated grief than for bereaved who are not directly exposed to the trauma.

To Know More You May Refer To:

Glad, K. A., Stensland, S., Czajkowski, N. O., Boelen, P. A., & Dyb, G. (2021). The longitudinal association between symptoms of posttraumatic stress and complicated grief: A random intercepts cross-lag analysis. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/tra0001087

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