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Unfinished Business in Bereavement

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Unfinished business (incomplete, unexpressed or unresolved relationship issues with the deceased) is frequently discussed as a risk factor for chronic and severe grief reactions. However, few empirical studies have examined this construct. The present study aimed to address this gap in the literature by examining the presence and severity of unfinished business as well as common themes of unfinished business reported in open-ended qualitative narratives among a sample of 224 bereaved individuals. In bivariate analyses, self-reported presence of unfinished business and the severity of distress due to unfinished business were both found to be associated with poorer bereavement outcomes. However, after controlling for potential confounds, distress related to unresolved issues with the deceased emerged as a more robust correlate of these outcomes. Qualitative responses were categorized, and the type of reported unfinished business was not significantly related to the degree of unfinished business distress or other bereavement outcomes. These findings provide preliminary justification for bereavement interventions that aim to ameliorate distress related to unresolved relational issues with the deceased.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA 2: Department of Psychology, University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee, USA 3: Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York, USA

Publication date: August 9, 2015

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