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Ways To Cope With Bereavement

By Gene Torrey

Most traumas, including the death of a spouse are potentially shattering experiences. These events can disrupt the survivor's social, emotional, and cognitive worlds. Although there has been frequent mention in the literature that traumatic situations cause people to talk about their experiences most evidence has been anecdotal. When someone within a social network dies, members of the network are naturally drawn together. During the grieving period especially within the first few days or weeks the survivors socially share their emotions and memories with each other.

Many of the discussion topics surround the individual who died, of course, but funerals and grieving rituals often include the social sharing of other personal and family histories. Although researched conducted to date has not found compelling evidence that social sharing leads to emotional recovery, our data suggested that it may serve several other important cognitive, psychological, and social functions.

Analysis and Recommendations for Steps to Handle The Loss of a Spouse in the First Year. The roles we have within our social networks are not often discussed or clearly defined. One of the ironies of having a spouse die is that we openly discuss the person, our feelings about him or her, and become conscious of that person's influence on us. As far as it applies to bereavement, the death of a loved one generally introduces chaos in people's personal universe, which may end up in denial and in alteration of the sense of reality. When bereaved individuals socially share the loss of a loved one, the contribution helps to give both the death itself and its consequences more reality.

A widow has to go through a lot when her spouse dies especially when she is very young. The death of spouse very often challenges our beliefs of a coherent, predictable, and controllable world. The overwhelming emotions which result from such challenges often drive individuals into a state of cognitive business. They slip into a cycle of ruminative thinking trying unsuccessfully to figure it all out. Based on research, it is hypothesized that social sharing helps to undermine this cognitive business cycle. This leads to predict that emotional memories that were not shared would be associated with higher cognitive needs than emotional memories that were shared. This function of social sharing is also very relevant in the context of bereavement.

Experiencing the death of a spouse, often shatters people's basic beliefs that they live in an orderly, understandable, and meaningful world. As a result, individuals frequently search for some meaning or try to make sense out of their negative experiences. Finding meaning in the loss of spouse is thought to be one way for dealing with and adjusting to the event. Through the use of social sharing, people can contribute to give both the death itself and its consequences more sense and meaning. ----------------------------


Stroebe, W., Stroebe, M., Schut, H., Zech, E., & van den Bout, J. (1997, June). Must we give sorrow words? Paper presented at the Third International Conference on Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, Washington, DC.

Watson, D., & Pennebaker, J. W. (1989). Health complaints, stress, and distress: Exploring the central role of negative affectivity. Psychological Review, 2, 234-254.

Wortman, C. B., & Silver, R. C. (1989). The myths of coping with loss. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 57, 349-357.

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