The Effect of Grief Cognitions on Fluctuations in Yearning and Emotional Pain of Bereaved Individuals: An Experience Sampling Method Study
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Background: A minority of bereaved individuals is affected by prolonged grief disorder (PGD). Research has established a positive association between negative grief cognitions and PGD symptom levels. The effect of grief cognitions on fluctuations in specific PGD symptoms in daily life is unexplored. Based on the adaptive oscillation proposed by the dual process model, we hypothesized that higher levels of grief cognitions would be associated with lower levels of fluctuation in yearning and in emotional pain. Methods: Participants´ (N = 55; 73% female) grief cognition and PGD symptom levels were assessed with an interview. In a subsequent 14-day ESM phase, yearning and emotional pain were recorded five times a day. The mean square of successive differences of yearning and of emotional pain was computed to estimate within-person fluctuations in each PGD symptom. Fluctuations in yearning and emotional pain were regressed on negative grief cognitions. Results & Conclusion: While grief cognitions were associated with greater fluctuations in yearning, no significant effect on fluctuations in emotional pain was found. The positive correlation between cross-sectional grief cognitions and PGD symptom levels supported earlier findings. The study provides first findings describing the relationship between a person-related variable and fluctuations in everyday PGD symptomatology. Persisting fluctuations in yearning might indicate the necessity to target grief cognitions in interventions. Future ESM studies should investigate fluctuations in PGD symptoms in the two years post-loss.