Grief and Bereavement in People With Intellectual Disabilities

Philip C. Dodd; Suzanne Guerin


Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2009;22(5):442-446. 

In This Article

Theories of Grief

Much of the work currently exploring grief and bereavement in the general population has implications for PWID, particularly those in the mild-to-moderate range of disability. There has been wide acceptance that the typical grief reaction following a significant bereavement involves a progression through the following psychological stages: shock (disbelief), yearning (separation distress), anger or protest, depression, and finally acceptance,[5] all occurring progressively, within a 12-month time period, after loss.

However, recent research has questioned the validity of the above 'stage theory' of normal grief. In a longitudinal cohort study of 233 bereaved individuals living in the north east of the United States, yearning was found to be the most common distressing feeling throughout the 24-month time period of the study following the bereavement. Disbelief, anger, and depression occurred less frequently, and all grief indicators peaked within a 6-month time period after loss and in the exact sequence as suggested by the stage theory of grief.[6] There is the suggestion that grief represents a single psychological construct, made up of disbelief, yearning, anger and depression, with acceptance gradually developing throughout the period of time following the bereavement.[7••]


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