Social Work Bereavement Practice
by
Mary Sormanti
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 August 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0117

Introduction

Bereavement may be defined as the condition of living in the face of a loved one’s death. With estimated global death rates of more than 56 million individuals each year, this generally unwanted, yet unavoidable, experience affects a large segment of the population. With the possible exception of those who die at a young age, everyone encounters the death of a significant other at some point. Despite the unique circumstances surrounding any individual death, bereavement is often associated with significant physical and psychological morbidity. Bereaved individuals and families generally undergo emotional, cognitive, spiritual, social, and physical changes whose impact can range from short-lived and relatively mild to long-lasting and profound. These consequences are generally identified as grief. Furthermore, although grief is recognized to be especially challenging when connected with the death of a loved one, it is also experienced with many other common losses including divorce, geographic relocation, and unemployment. Understanding the fundamental features and psychosocial consequences of grief as well as the myriad contextual factors that shape how grief is experienced and expressed is essential to effective social work practice. The considerable body of theoretical and empirical knowledge regarding grief in general and bereavement specifically is growing rapidly and includes analysis and debate about features that differentiate normative adaptive responses from those that may indicate a diagnosable disorder, providing a solid foundation for both novices and seasoned professionals.

General Overviews

Coupled with the ubiquitous nature of loss and an apparent surfeit of potentially traumatic events occurring with regularity across the globe, a steady increase in related academic inquiry has resulted in a sizable amount of literature about these topics. Busy practitioners and others with limited means to undertake a comprehensive review of the extant literature can gain a solid overview of the specialty area by reading sound critical synopses published in well-regarded sources. By no means definitive, the following works will meet this aim. Stroebe and Schut 2010 provides a detailed overview of prominent grief theories including their own influential “dual process” model. Howarth 2011 and Zisook and Shear 2009 provide concise summaries of key theoretical concepts as well as diagnostic and mental health treatment issues at the center of current bereavement scholarship. Stroebe, et al. 2007 presents an important critical analysis and synthesis of research data on the psychological and physical effects of bereavement. Mancini and Bonanno 2006 is a straightforward introduction to evidence-based assessment and intervention with bereaved individuals. Sormanti 2008 gives a brief summary of contemporary theories and empirical findings about bereavement with implications for practice. Finally, Klass and Chow 2011 underscore the critical relationship between culture and grief, which often receives insufficient attention.

  • Howarth, Robyn A. 2011. Concepts and controversies in grief and loss. Journal of Mental Health Counseling 33.1 (January): 4–10.

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    Howarth provides overviews of grief and bereavement subtypes and their related descriptive constructs as well as the diagnostic and treatment issues currently being examined by researchers and practitioner-scholars. Available online for purchase.

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    • Klass, Dennis, and Amy Y. M. Chow. 2011. Culture and ethnicity in experiencing, policing, and handling grief. In Grief and bereavement in contemporary society: Bridging research and practice. Edited by Robert A. Neimeyer, Darcy L. Harris, Howard R. Winokuer, and Gordon F. Thornton, 341–354. New York: Routledge.

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      This chapter reminds us that grief and bereavement always occur within a cultural framework. The influence of culture on shaping individuals’ understanding, experience, and expression of grief and the interplay between dominant cultural narratives and individual grief narratives are examined.

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      • Mancini, Anthony D., and George A. Bonanno. 2006. Bereavement. In Practitioner’s guide to evidence-based psychotherapy. Edited by Jane E. Fisher and William T. O’Donohue, 122–130. New York: Springer.

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        This is a solid stand-alone chapter within a reference book that provides clinicians and students with easy access to basic information about the most effective practices in assessment and intervention for a variety of mental health issues.

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        • Sormanti, Mary. 2008. Bereavement practice. In The encyclopedia of social work. 20th ed. Edited by Terry Mizrahi and Larry E. Davis, 192–195. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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          A concise distillation of contemporary theories and empirical findings about bereavement including implications of this knowledge base for social work.

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          • Stroebe, Margaret, and Henk Schut. 2010. The dual process model of coping with bereavement: A decade on. Omega: Journal of Death and Dying 61.4: 273–289.

            DOI: 10.2190/OM.61.4.bSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            This is one of the most recent publications from these eminent bereavement scholars. Their seminal theoretical model and its professional development within the historical context of the field are described, as are the scientific updates that have occurred in the field since they first published the model in 1999. Anyone with a serious interest in the field should be familiar with this work.

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            • Stroebe, Margaret, Henk Schut, and Wolfgang Stroebe. 2007. Health outcomes of bereavement. Lancet 370.9603 (December): 1960–1973.

              DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61816-9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              This article, written by three of the most respected experts in the field, provides a synthesis of research data about the psychological and physical effects of bereavement derived from a comprehensive review of published studies since 1997. Especially useful are the authors’ critical analyses of the study findings including their determination of which subgroups may be especially vulnerable to poorer outcomes. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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              • Zisook, Sidney, and Katherine Shear. 2009. Grief and bereavement: What psychiatrists need to know. World Psychiatry 8.2 (June):67–74.

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                Despite the title, this concise article provides important information for any mental health professional working with bereaved individuals. It covers the clinical characteristics and typical course of uncomplicated and complicated grief and the information necessary for distinguishing between the two. Treatment information is also provided as is a helpful section about recognizing and treating bereavement-related depression.

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                Textbooks

                The merits and limitations of textbooks as educational tools are a topic of long-standing discourse. This discourse aside, the following texts, which might also aptly be referred to as reference books, provide readers with a survey of broad-based and population-specific material about grief and bereavement. Berzoff and Silverman 2004 focuses its selections on the specialty area of palliative and end-of-life care, with chapters attending primarily to the loss and grief issues associated with life-threatening and terminal illness. Christ 2000 presents important findings about children’s bereavement culled from her intervention research with children who experienced the death of a parent to cancer. Corr and Balk 2009 and Hooyman and Kramer 2006 cover a broader span of loss experiences with the former narrowing in on how these losses affect children. Neimeyer, et al. 2011 and Stroebe, et al. 2008 spotlight empirical findings about the psychosocial impact of grief and bereavement as well as the accruing evidence about interventions that facilitate individuals’ adjustment to them. Walsh-Burke 2011, Webb 2010, and Worden 2008 provide texts that are perhaps most accessible to busy practitioners, with rich case examples and descriptions of interventions in action. Walsh-Burke 2011 and Worden 2008 primarily provide information about practice with adults, whereas Webb 2010 concentrates on work with children.

                • Berzoff, Joan, and Phyllis R. Silverman, eds. 2004. Living with dying: A handbook for healthcare practitioners. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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                  This extensive compendium, edited specifically for social workers in the field of palliative and end-of-life care, covers research, theory, interventions, and personal narratives from health-care professionals whose work was affected by their own experiences with significant loss. Although several chapters are devoted entirely to bereavement, the entire book is a valuable resource for social workers and others who provide services to individuals who are dying and their families.

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                  • Christ, Grace H. 2000. Healing children’s grief: Surviving a parent’s death from cancer. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                    Based on the author’s parent-guidance intervention research, this book describes how a sample of children aged three to seventeen coped with the terminal cancer and subsequent death of a parent. The first section provides a literature review and description of the research methodology. The second section incorporates detailed examples that illustrate important findings about age-based differences in children’s grief and provides practical guidance for those who routinely work with children.

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                    • Corr, Charles A., and David E. Balk, eds. 2009. Children’s encounters with death, bereavement and coping. New York: Springer.

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                      This volume provides a comprehensive review of children’s reactions to various types of deaths and practical guidance for assisting them. Chapters written from various backgrounds and disciplinary perspectives are useful for both professionals and laypeople working or living with children affected by loss. The text includes an extensive appendix of books to be read by and with children.

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                      • Hooyman, Nancy R., and Betty J. Kramer. 2006. Living through loss: Interventions across the life span. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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                        This book considers losses and manifestations of grief commonly associated with specific life stages or phases. Chapters on loss in childhood; adolescence; and young, middle, and older adulthood include descriptions and examples of individual adjustment responses and related professional interventions. The book also includes introductory chapters on grief theories and their critiques and draws from the field’s empirical research base. The text is written in an engaging style that is likely to be accessible to professionals with varying levels of experience.

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                        • Neimeyer, Robert A., Darcy L. Harris, Howard R. Winokuer, and Gordon F. Thornton, eds. 2011. Grief and bereavement in contemporary society: Bridging research and practice. New York: Routledge.

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                          This recent volume in the highly regarded Death, Dying, and Bereavement series is an impressive compilation of thirty-plus chapters written by expert practitioner- and researcher-scholars from across the globe. Although individual sections or chapters may be of particular interest and utility to certain readers, the entire volume provides thorough coverage of this expansive field. Also available as an e-book.

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                          • Stroebe, Margaret S., Robert O. Hansson, Henk Schut, and Wolfgang Stroebe, eds. 2008. Handbook of bereavement research and practice: Advances in theory and intervention. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

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                            The book provides detailed reviews of prominent bereavement theories and their empirical evidence and examines controversies, differences of opinion, and seemingly contradictory research findings in the current literature. The book may be especially interesting to those wanting to understand the “science” of bereavement. Although it is not a clinical sourcebook, several chapters (e.g., those on bereavement measures, cross-cultural issues, and family-focused grief therapy) will be of interest to clinicians and researchers alike.

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                            • Walsh-Burke, Katherine. 2011. Grief and loss: Theories and skills for the helping professions. 2d ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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                              This brief yet substantive book covers fundamental concepts and theories of grief and loss, as well as descriptions of various losses and their contextual influences across the life-span. Incorporation of case examples is a highlight. Additionally, an extensive list of resources and suggested educational exercises that can be used by practitioners and classroom instructors make this book accessible to a broad audience.

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                              • Webb, Nancy B., ed. 2010. Helping bereaved children: A handbook for practitioners. 3d ed. New York: Guilford.

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                                This work presents a range of counseling and therapy approaches with children who have experienced loss. The book uses detailed case descriptions as a means of depicting clear practice strategies to assist bereaved children in a variety of contexts at home and in the community.

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                                • Worden, J. William. 2008. Grief counseling and grief therapy: A handbook for the mental health practitioner. 4th ed. New York: Springer.

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                                  This is the latest edition of an internationally popular text for graduate-level courses and is written by one of the field’s well-known authors. The book is well organized and incorporates current theories and research in a very readable format. An important highlight is the differentiation between trauma and grief responses and related interventions.

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                                  General Practice Resources

                                  All social work practice requires thoughtful application of the profession’s values, ethics, principles, and techniques. The following resources offer information specific to working with people affected by grief and bereavement. The Association for Death Education and Counseling and the Hospice Foundation of America, professional organizations with large multidisciplinary memberships, provide public websites with access to academic and mainstream articles, databases of grief and bereavement experts, and related materials and opportunities. The Dougy Center and Hello Grief, which focus predominantly on loss and grief experiences of children, also provide Internet-based and in-person resources. Growth House, Inc. and the National Archive of Grief Support Studies are online portals. Evidence-Based Mental Health is a multidisciplinary journal that publishes reports and summaries of peer-reviewed research.

                                  • Association for Death Education and Counseling.

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                                    The public website for this multidisciplinary professional organization offers information relevant to death education, care of the dying, and grief counseling. The website features links to empirical articles, current events, and resources, including a search engine for finding a practitioner who specializes in thanatology, the study of medical, psychological, and social problems associated with dying.

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                                    • The Dougy Center: The National Center for Grieving Children and Families.

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                                      The Dougy Center and its affiliate, the National Center for Grieving Children and Families, provide support groups, training, and other intervention programs to individuals and organizations. Their peer-group model of bereavement support has been replicated by hundreds of organizations worldwide. Based in Portland, Oregon, the Dougy Center website provides a search engine and links to more than five hundred grief-support programs across the United States.

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                                      • Evidence-Based Mental Health.

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                                        The website of this multidisciplinary journal provides summaries and brief reports about mental health research published in peer-reviewed international journals. Besides summarizing key details about published research studies, articles in this journal also include expert commentary about the clinical utility and application of research findings.

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                                        • Growth House, Inc..

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                                          This website is a commonly recommended resource among those providing programs and other services to the dying and bereaved. It offers free access to a shared database that includes links to full-text materials and other resources contributed and vetted by educational organizations throughout the world. Information and resources about all aspects of grief and bereavement are included.

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                                          • Hello Grief.

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                                            Hello Grief is the outcome of research conducted by the Comfort Zone Camp. The nonprofit bereavement camp provides programs across the United States for children who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, or primary caregiver. The website offers an online interactive support community, personal stories, blog-style articles from professionals, and an extensive set of links to bereavement organizations in the United States.

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                                            • Hospice Foundation of America.

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                                              This website offers a Living with Grief series of DVDs and books that covers the organization’s teleconferences and special reports. The series addresses specific types of loss and grieving populations including African Americans, children and adolescents, and elders. It also provides information on caregiving and pain management. Additional materials are added routinely.

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                                              • National Archive of Grief Support Studies.

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                                                The National Archive of Grief Support Studies database provides bibliographical information and summaries of recent scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles relevant to grief and bereavement service providers. Summaries include key concepts and a brief statement of implications for service providers.

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                                                Literary Sources

                                                Personal essays and book-length memoirs about bereavement and grief in the aftermath of other significant losses are fast becoming an established subset of published literature. Distinct from the genre of popular self-help books, these generally well-written narratives provide readers with access (albeit crafted) to the private thoughts, feelings, actions, and worlds of others who have experienced a profound loss and survived to reflect upon it coherently. Included here are several critically acclaimed works about bereavement after the death of a spouse, parent, child, or sibling. Didion 2005, Lewis 1960, and Hall 1998 offer windows into the experiences of becoming a widow/widower. Jurgensen 1999 and McCracken 2008 reveal the painful vicissitudes of living after the death of one’s child. O’Rourke 2011 and Smith 2004 provide the reader with detailed descriptions of the grief experienced by an adult child whose parent has died and an adolescent who survives the death of an older sibling. These and similar works of literature provide compelling insights, validation, and reassurance to readers who have experienced similar losses themselves or who want to understand better the experience for their personal and professional growth.

                                                • Didion, Joan. 2005. The year of magical thinking. New York: Knopf.

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                                                  A memoir about Didion’s grief in the year following her husband’s unexpected death. She is an acclaimed writer of essays, novels, and screenplays, as was her husband. This memoir was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and earned a National Book Award for Nonfiction. A National Public Radio interview with Didion about this book is available online.

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                                                  • Hall, Donald. 1998. Without. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

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                                                    A collection of poems concerned with the sudden illness, unsuccessful treatment, and subsequent death of Hall’s wife. He began to write the collection during his wife’s inpatient medical treatment and continued it after her death.

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                                                    • Jurgensen, Geneviève. 1999. The disappearance. Translated by Adriana Hunter. New York: Norton.

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                                                      This book captures the author’s grief regarding the sudden death of her two young daughters. It is written in the form of letters to a friend chronicling the author’s daily struggle to cope with this devastating loss. Jurgensen is a motorist safety advocate and cofounder of France’s League against Road Violence. Originally published in French in 1994 (Paris: Calmann-Lévy).

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                                                      • Lewis, C. S. 1960. A grief observed. New York: Seabury.

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                                                        A collection of the author’s grief-stricken reflections about life in the aftermath of his wife’s death to cancer. The book is written much like a personal journal, depicting Lewis’s deep struggles to make sense of his profound loss especially within the framework of his religious beliefs, which were deeply shaken by his wife’s death.

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                                                        • McCracken, Elizabeth. 2008. An exact replica of a figment of my imagination. New York: Little, Brown.

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                                                          The author’s account of her grief and coping upon learning that her baby had died in utero during the ninth month of her pregnancy. Prior to the book’s publication, McCracken was an award-winning author and journalist. A National Public Radio interview with McCracken about this book is available online.

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                                                          • O’Rourke, Meghan. 2011. The long goodbye: A memoir. New York: Riverhead.

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                                                            One of the most recent of its genre. Written by an accomplished journalist and poet, this book details the author’s experiences regarding her mother’s diagnosis and treatment of metastatic cancer and ultimately her mother’s untimely death at age fifty-five. An interview with the author about this book is available online.

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                                                            • Smith, Alison. 2004. Name all the animals: A memoir. New York: Scribner.

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                                                              The author’s account of her family’s journey through the three years after the death of her eighteen-year-old brother. Smith, who was fifteen at the time of her brother’s death, provides readers with a powerful look into grief from an adolescent’s perspective. Excerpts from the book are available online at the author’s website.

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                                                              Journals

                                                              Many journals publish articles that are relevant to practitioners treating individuals affected by loss, grief, and bereavement. Although none are aimed solely at social workers, many are relevant to social work and other behavioral health professionals given both the ubiquitous nature of loss and the multidisciplinary nature of the field of grief studies. The leading journals that have a significant, if not primary, focus on loss, grief, and bereavement are Omega: Journal of Death and Dying, Death Studies, and the Journal of Loss and Trauma. Each of these journals includes scholarly contributions from a broad range of disciplines, including social work. Social work practitioners, researchers, educators, and policymakers will find these journals to be a rich source of high-quality, cutting-edge information. In addition to these, a number of other journals publish original research articles, field reports, case studies, book reviews, commentaries, and other types of papers about bereavement-related issues. Several of the best are included in this section. Grief Matters is aimed at a broad audience of professionals and laypeople. The scope of articles in Illness, Crisis, & Loss and the Journal of Traumatic Stress extends beyond bereavement to include other types of significant loss and trauma. Psycho-Oncology includes articles about bereavement associated with cancer. Social Science & Medicine publishes articles relevant to any aspect of health.

                                                              • Death Studies. 1985–.

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                                                                This highly respected journal publishes peer-reviewed articles about research and practice in the areas of bereavement, loss, and death education. Articles are both international and interdisciplinary in scope, sharing a common aim of advancing skills among professionals who work with dying individuals and their families. Death Studies is published eight times per year.

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                                                                • Grief Matters: The Australian Journal of Grief and Bereavement. 1998–.

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                                                                  Published three times annually by the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement, each issue has a theme determined by its editorial board. Past issues have covered grief in the workplace, grief and disasters, and grief and children. Published articles pertain to any aspect of grief and are submitted by academics and practitioners. Previous contributors include some of the world’s most respected experts in grief studies.

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                                                                  • Illness, Crisis, & Loss. 1999–.

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                                                                    This quarterly journal publishes peer-reviewed articles, book reviews, and essays on psychosocial and ethical issues related to life-threatening illness, trauma, and loss. The journal also includes editorials, interviews, and commentaries from practitioners and other experts who work with people affected by these issues.

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                                                                    • Journal of Loss and Trauma: International Perspectives on Stress and Coping. 2007–.

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                                                                      This journal includes case studies, book reviews, point-counterpoint discussions, and empirical papers about loss and grief. It is committed to examining a broad array of losses experienced by individuals, communities, and society at large. In addition to bereavement, articles explore other relational losses (e.g., divorce) as well as symbolic, material, and personal losses associated with contemporary life.

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                                                                      • Journal of Traumatic Stress. 1988–.

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                                                                        This bimonthly journal is the official publication for the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and serves as a primary resource for professionals who study and treat individuals and communities exposed to highly stressful and potentially traumatic events. Its peer-reviewed contents are predominantly articles and brief reports based on original research about the biopsychosocial components of trauma. Review papers and commentaries are also considered.

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                                                                        • Omega: Journal of Death and Dying. 1970–.

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                                                                          This journal provides a multidisciplinary forum for scholarship on death and dying. Articles are contributed by international experts in varied fields including social work, medicine, sociology, education, history, anthropology, and literature. The journal is a seminal repository of cutting-edge knowledge for professionals whose work involves the care and treatment of individuals, families, and communities affected by loss, grief, and bereavement.

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                                                                          • Psycho-Oncology. 1983–.

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                                                                            This monthly journal publishes peer-reviewed articles about the many psychosocial aspects of cancer and AIDS-related tumors, including grief and bereavement. Contributions represent international perspectives and experiences of professionals from multiple disciplines including social work, nursing, psychiatry, psychology, and medicine. Psycho-Oncology is the official journal of the International Psycho-Oncology Society, the American Psychosocial Oncology Society, and the British Psychosocial Oncology Society.

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                                                                            • Social Science & Medicine. 1967–.

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                                                                              This monthly journal is a highly regarded source of social science research on health and mental health issues of common concern to practitioners, researchers, and policymakers. The journal publishes original empirical and theoretical research articles, position papers, and commentaries representing international perspectives and a wide range of social science disciplines. A number of influential articles on grief studies have been published in the early 21st century.

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                                                                              Evidence-Based Practice

                                                                              Arguably the most significant debates in the grief and bereavement field today relate to intervention and treatment. Numerous questions abound: Does adjustment to bereavement always require professional intervention? If not, under what circumstances is bereavement intervention deemed relevant? What interventions, if any, are effective? Is it possible that grief interventions may be harmful? It should be noted that leading experts do not necessarily agree on the answers to these questions. Evidence-based practice is the process by which practitioners integrate the best available research and their own practitioner expertise to address the needs, values, characteristics, and preferences of the individual or family involved, and it is generally considered to be the gold standard for social workers and other health and mental health professionals. Using this process, a practitioner must be open to a critical consideration of a range of differing, sometimes contradictory, findings. Currier, et al. 2010; Currier, et al. 2008; and Wittouck, et al. 2011 provide conclusions based on combined data from more than eighty-five different bereavement intervention studies conducted since 1975. More accessible to those without a strong background in research methods and data analysis, Brent 2010 provides a summary of research on one intervention—a family-focused program for youths coping with the death of a parent or caregiver. Similarly, Altmaier 2011 and Haine, et al. 2008 provide expert syntheses of the grief and bereavement literature that can help practitioners enhance their clinical work. Finally, as highlighted in Breen 2010–2011, information learned by those conducting research about bereavement and those providing direct services to the bereaved is not shared often enough to benefit the field overall. Bonnano 2009 is one example of a researcher’s attempt to make his and others’ data accessible to both audiences.

                                                                              • Altmaier, Elizabeth M. 2011. Best practices in counseling grief and loss: Finding benefit from trauma. Journal of Mental Health Counseling 33.1: 33–45.

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                                                                                This article provides a cogent summary of best practices in the assessment and treatment of grief.

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                                                                                • Bonnano, George A. 2009. The other side of sadness: What the new science of bereavement tells us about life after loss. New York: Basic Books.

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                                                                                  In this book, written by a clinical psychologist, the author uses his own and others’ research and practice knowledge to challenge traditional Western assumptions about bereavement. Although written by an academic, multiple professional and customer reviews suggest the book is informative and accessible to both professional and lay audiences. A 2010 interview with the author about the book and the research behind it is available online.

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                                                                                  • Breen, Lauren J. 2010–2011. Professionals’ experiences of grief counseling: Implications for bridging the gap between research and practice. Omega: Journal of Death and Dying 62.3: 285–303.

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                                                                                    This article, based on interviews with grief practitioners in Australia, suggests that research-derived knowledge about grief and related interventions is not being utilized in direct practice with bereaved individuals. Recommendations for enhancing the linkages between research and practice, including strategies to make research more accessible and understandable to practitioners, are provided. This is an important article for both researchers and practitioners. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                    • Brent, David A. 2010. The Family Bereavement Program reduces problematic grief in parentally bereaved youths. Evidence-Based Mental Health 13.4 (November): 115.

                                                                                      DOI: 10.1136/ebmh1091Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      This one-page commentary provides a summary of research on the Family Bereavement Program, a preventive intervention for bereaved caregivers and their children. The author has culled the most important clinical applications from the original study, which will be especially useful for readers without a strong research background. This is an excellent example of the types of articles available in this journal. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                      • Currier, Joseph M., Jason M. Holland, and Robert A. Neimeyer. 2010. Do CBT-based interventions alleviate distress following bereavement? A review of the current evidence. International Journal of Cognitive Therapy 3.1: 77–93.

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                                                                                        This article provides the authors’ conclusions about the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)–based interventions for bereaved individuals based on their meta-analyses of findings of data from eleven rigorously controlled studies. The article provides a thoughtful look into the empirical testing of interventions and is aimed at readers with a solid interest or background in research. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                        • Currier, Joseph M., Robert A. Neimeyer, and Jeffrey S. Berman. 2008. The effectiveness of psychotherapeutic interventions for bereaved persons: A comprehensive quantitative review. Psychological Bulletin 134.5 (September): 648–661.

                                                                                          DOI: 10.1037/0033-2909.134.5.648Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                          Provides a comprehensive review of sixty-one published research studies that examined psychotherapeutic interventions for the bereaved. The authors conclude that bereavement interventions may decrease distress for a short period of time for some bereaved individuals and over a longer period for a subgroup of the bereaved at higher risk for poor outcomes. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                          • Haine, Rachel A., Tim S. Ayers, Irwin N. Sandler, and Sharlene A. Wolchik. 2008.Evidence-based practices for parentally bereaved children and their families. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 39.2 (April): 113–121.

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                                                                                            This article provides a practitioner-friendly synthesis of research findings about risk and protective factors for bereaved children, which readers can use to develop and focus their work with this population.

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                                                                                            • Wittouck, Ciska, SaraVan Autreve, EvaDe Jaegere, Gwendolyn Portzky, and Keesvan Heeringen. 2011. The prevention and treatment of complicated grief: A meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review 31.1 (February): 69–78.

                                                                                              DOI: 10.1016/j.cpr.2010.09.005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                              This article is the most recent of a small number of meta-analyses of bereavement research studies. Based on their analysis of fourteen randomized controlled trials, the authors provide readers with highlights of the study findings and conclusions about the effectiveness of the interventions. This article is written primarily for an academic and research audience. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                              Specific Populations

                                                                                              Because cultural competence is an essential aim of all social work practice and research, understanding diverse treatment issues and approaches pertinent with subgroups of the larger bereaved population is especially useful. Clute 2010 and Sormanti and Ballan 2011 use their expertise to bridge the fields of disability studies and bereavement and to give clinical professionals the knowledge and skills they need to help underserved populations having significant needs and strengths. The authors of Cohen and Mannarino 2011 apply their extensive knowledge about trauma and loss to the growing population of children in military families who face considerable grief. Greer 2010 and Harner, et al. 2011 share insights about two other distinctive populations—adults who experience the death of a loved one to cancer and women who experience the death of a loved one while incarcerated. Wright 2011 and Myers and Fine 2006 focus on the common, yet sometimes unrecognized or disregarded, grief associated with pregnancy loss and the death of a loved one to suicide. Finally, Doka 2002 includes chapters about these and other types of bereavement situations that society in general has rendered coping with more difficult because of stigma, misinformation, and social disenfranchisement.

                                                                                              • Clute, Mary Ann. 2010. Bereavement interventions for adults with intellectual disabilities: What works? Omega: Journal of Death and Dying 61.2: 163–177.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.2190/OM.61.2.eSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                Based on a review of both the general bereavement literature and the much more limited literature about bereavement among adults with intellectual disabilities, this article provides a foundation for understanding the needs and strengths of this population and related interventions that have practice evidence suggesting they hold promise. The author illuminates noteworthy gaps in the intervention literature for this population. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                • Cohen, Judith A., and Anthony P. Mannarino. 2011. Trauma-focused CBT for traumatic grief in military children. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy 41.4: 219–227.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1007/s10879-011-9178-0Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  This article is written by developers of trauma-focused cognitive behavioral treatment (TF-CBT), an empirically supported intervention for trauma and traumatic grief in children. Familiarity with TF-CBT is essential for practitioners working with children who have experienced traumatic loss. Given the vast numbers of children impacted by military deployment, this article is especially significant and timely. Available online for purchase or by subscription. A free web-based curriculum for professionals can be accessed online.

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                                                                                                  • Doka, Kenneth J.,ed. 2002. Disenfranchised grief: New directions, challenges and strategies for practice. Champaign, IL: Research.

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                                                                                                    This book, edited by a recognized expert in the field, focuses on losses rarely, if ever, acknowledged or validated socially. It is divided into sections focused on theory, practice, and policy and education and includes chapters about specific categories of disenfranchised grief (e.g., individuals with developmental disabilities and individuals grieving the death of an animal companion) as well as suggestions and implications for practice.

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                                                                                                    • Greer, Steven. 2010. Bereavement care: Some clinical observations. Psycho-Oncology 19.11 (November): 1156–1160.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1002/pon.1677Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      This article is an excellent example of clinical wisdom and empirical knowledge combined. Although focused on grief and bereavement of individuals who have experienced the cancer treatment and cancer-related death of a loved one, case examples and practice guidelines will be especially useful for those who work in this well-defined area of practice, but this information can also assist practitioners working with a broader bereaved population. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                      • Harner, Holly M., Patricia M. Hentz, and Maria Carmela Evangelista. 2011. Grief interrupted: The experience of loss among incarcerated women. Qualitative Health Research 21.4 (April): 454–464.

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1177/1049732310373257Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        This paper describes the grief and bereavement experiences of a vulnerable and marginalized population deserving of greater attention and services—women who experience the death of a loved one while incarcerated. A thematic analysis of in-depth interview data with fifteen incarcerated women is provided along with poignant segments of interview transcripts that reflect their common experiences. Useful recommendations for practice and policy are included.

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                                                                                                        • Myers, Michael F., and Carla Fine. 2006. Touched by suicide: Hope and healing after loss. New York: Gotham.

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                                                                                                          Cowritten by a psychiatrist and a family member who survived the death of her husband to suicide, this unique collaboration offers a combination of personal and professional wisdom about this specific subtype of bereavement. The book will appeal to both professional and lay audiences.

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                                                                                                          • Sormanti, Mary, and Michelle S. Ballan. 2011. Strengthening grief support for children with developmental disabilities. School Psychology International 32.2 (April): 179–193.

                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1177/0143034311400831Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            This article describes common losses and important grief-related challenges experienced by children with developmental disabilities and offers practice guidelines that school-based and other mental health professionals can use as a guide to enhance their work with this vulnerable population. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                            • Wright, Patricia M. 2011. Barriers to a comprehensive understanding of pregnancy loss. Journal of Loss and Trauma: International Perspectives on Stress & Coping 16.1:1–12.

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                                                                                                              Based on a critical examination of the extant grief literature, this article describes gaps and inconsistencies therein that result in significant barriers to research and practice in the field of perinatal bereavement. Recommendations for addressing these gaps are offered. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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