Julie Ann Pooley
ORCID : 0000-0001-8460-9718
Omega - Journal of Death and Dying
School of Arts and Humanities
While distressing, late life spousal loss is considered a normative life event and most demonstrate resilient recovery from grief. However, for 5–7% of the population spousal loss comes early, before the age of 50, and little is known about the factors that influence adjustment in this population. We used the DPM integrative framework to examine correlates and predictors of mental wellbeing and grief intensity in an international sample of 603 young widows and widowers. Contrary to existing bereavement research, loss-orientated stressors (e.g., expectedness and cause of death) did not predict bereavement outcomes. Employment and financial wellbeing were the only statistically significant restoration-orientated stressors associated with coping, mental wellbeing and grief intensity. We found no significant associations between parental status and coping or bereavement outcomes. Loss-orientated coping, followed by inter and intrapersonal protective factors for resilience and financial wellbeing were the greatest predictors of grief intensity. Loss-orientated coping was highest in early bereavement, the greatest predictor of grief intensity and associated with being unemployed, financial insecurity and decreased protective factors for resilience. Restoration-orientated coping was highest in later bereavement, was a weak predictor of grief intensity and associated with being employed, increased financial wellbeing and protective factors for resilience. Overall, we found the young-widowed population is at heightened risk of poor adjustment. Almost two-thirds reported decreased functioning, probable depression with high rates of psychological distress. Nearly half met diagnostic criteria for prolonged grief disorder. We discuss implications for research and clinical practice.
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