Writing therapy for the bereaved: Evaluation of an intervention

Document Type

Journal Article


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Nursing, Midwifery and Postgraduate Medicine / WA Centre for Cancer and Palliative Care




O'Connor, M., Nikoletti, S., Kristjanson, L. J., Loh, R., & Willcock, B. (2003). Writing therapy for the bereaved: Evaluation of an intervention. Journal of palliative medicine, 6(2), 195-204. Available here


Bereavement is a risk factor for a wide range of well-documented negative outcomes. As such, a range of sensitive and appropriate interventions are needed to support people adjusting to their new roles and change in identity. Writing has proven to be useful for people adjusting to traumatic experiences. Translating experiences into language and constructing a coherent narrative of the event enables thoughts and feelings to be integrated, leading to a sense of resolution and less negative feelings associated with the experience. Using a writing therapy intervention tailored specifically for bereaved individuals in Western Australia, this study asked: "Does a writing therapy intervention reduce grief, lead to greater health and wellbeing and lead to greater self care for bereaved individuals?" The results indicate that for grief and General Health Questionnaire-30 (GHQ-30) scores there was an overall improvement for all participants regardless of whether participants received the intervention or not. The results for the effect of writing therapy on self-care demonstrate that there is a greater increase in self-care for the intervention group than for the control group; however, this trend does not reach statistical significance. Writing therapy offers a useful, cost-effective, and private way of supporting bereaved individuals who may not practice self-care. The main limitation of the current research is the low number of participants, which limits the generalizability of the results. Future research could be directed toward evaluating the intervention for recently bereaved people or those identified by screening as being particularly vulnerable.





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