The effects of a perceived ‘double loss’ during times of grief
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Many studies have been conducted on how religion can be a protective factor against longer lasting grief, however it is underemphasized that, under certain conditions, religion can make grief worse. Specifically, this research investigates if there is a difference in psychological wellbeing between people who lost their religion as a meaning-making system due to bereavement, also designated as ‘double loss’, and people who did not. Religious environment (liberal or traditional) was taken into account across cultures. For this purpose, The BRIEF RCOPE, Integration of Stressful Life Experiences Scale (ISLES) and Inventory of Complicated Grief (ICG) were used and distributed in Germany, Lebanon, Greece, The Netherlands, The United States, Serbia and Turkey. In total 1136 bereaved participants were included, with 403 describing their religious environment as traditional compared to 384 liberal participants. The expectation that the religious environment has an influence on the role of religion in the process of dealing with bereavement was met. However, surprisingly and contrary to the expectations, participants suffering from a double loss seemed to report less psychological health problems and more ability to make meaning. Since this study needs to be viewed as exploratory and has some limitations, future research should focus on measuring grief more deliberately in a cross-cultural way. Nonetheless, this study shows the importance of providing insight into the influence of (religious) environment on the individual grieving process.