What stressors are perceived as difficult by elderly widows? A study of bereavement stressors, attachment and grief
Berkum, Ida S. van
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In this study, it was investigated how difficult bereaved elderly women perceive certain stressors they have to cope with after the death of their partner. An inventory of the difficulty of dealing with loss-oriented (LO) and restoration-oriented (RO) stressors, as defined by the Dual Process Model of coping with bereavement (Stroebe & Schut, 1999) was made. To measure LO and RO stressor difficulty a questionnaire was designed. This study also investigated the relationship of LO and RO stressor difficulty and grief, measured by the Rouw Vragenlijst. The relationship of LO and RO stressor difficulty with attachment, measured by the Relationship Structures questionnaire, and the relationship of attachment and grief intensity was also investigated. The results suggest that the group of participants consisted of quite independent, and mobile widows who were in general well capable of looking after themselves, and with general low grief scores, seem to have adjusted well to bereavement. In general. However, most women said they had difficulties coping with the loneliness created by the loss. Moderate correlations between LO stressor difficulty, RO stressor difficulty and grief were found, indicating a connection, but not a total overlap of these concepts. LO stressor difficulty proved to be a slightly better predictor of grief intensity than control variable negative affect. As predicted, avoidant attachment was significantly associated with low scores on LO stressor difficulty. Contrary to expectations, anxious attachment was associated with low scores on LO stressor difficulty. No significant results were found regarding the hypotheses on attachment and grief. Implications of the results and suggestions for future research are discussed.