Prolonged Grief Symptoms and Growth in the First 2 Years of Bereavement: Evidence for a Nonlinear Association

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Abstract

Bereavement can be a significant life stressor that precipitates both negative and constructive changes. The primary aim of this study was to examine the nature of the association between prolonged grief (PG) symptoms and posttraumatic growth (PTG) in a large sample (N = 617) of individuals who had experienced a range of losses over the previous 2 years. When accounting for demographic factors (age, gender, ethnicity, and educational background), loss-related circumstances (cause of death, relationship to deceased, and months since loss), and assumptive worldviews (benevolence, meaningfulness, and self-worth), PG symptoms were found to be curvilinearly associated with perceptions of growth. In particular, participants who reported symptoms in an intermediate range perceived the highest levels of growth, whereas participants with relatively lower and higher levels of grief reported lower levels of growth. These findings suggest a nonlinear relationship between grief and growth and highlight the need for sensitivity with respect to PTG for clinicians working with sufferers of prolonged grief.

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