DOES WRITING ABOUT THE BEREAVEMENT LESSEN GRIEF FOLLOWING SUDDEN, UNINTENTIONAL DEATH?
Writing about traumatic events produces improvement in an array of areas including physical and psychological functioning. To see if these improvements extended to improved bereavement recovery after the accidental or homicidal death of a loved one, 64 undergraduates (51 women, 13 men) began, and 44 completed, a writing project. At pretest, they completed measures of depression, anxiety, grief, impact, and nonroutine health visits. Then, they were randomly assigned to write about either the bereavement experience (profound condition), or innocuous topics (trivial condition). They wrote for 15 minutes a day for four days, then completed the same measures a second time (posttest). Six weeks later, they were mailed the same measures again (follow-up). A 2 (Condition: Profound versus Trivial) X 3 (Time: Pre -, Post -, or Follow-up) MANOVA yielded a significant main effect for time, but no main effect for condition and no interaction. Follow-up ANOVAs indicated that, across conditions, from pretest to follow-up testing participants reported less anxiety and depression, less impact, greater grief recovery, but about the same health center visits. A 2 (Condition) X 4 (Writing Day) MANOVA and follow-up tests indicated that those in the profound condition reported less subjective distress from Day 1 to Day 3, compared to those in the trivial condition. Combined with Kovac and Range (1999), present results suggest that writing projects may be more beneficial to those experiencing the unique bereavement of suicidal death, rather than those experiencing the nonintentional death of a loved one by accident or homicide.
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