Research

The Loss Foundation is committed to delivering the most effective cutting edge bereavement support and as such we recognise that more research into the process of grieving and the factors that might make an individual’s journey more difficult is desperately needed in order to design better support systems and services.

What we have learned over the last few years is that there is a shocking lack of services in the UK for those who are grieving, arguably one of the most difficult experiences that any of us will go through. We want to change this.  We believe that individuals should be able to access this support for free meaning that we need to prove there is a need for it.

Read below for the information on some of the research projects we have been involved in or designed.

Therapy Groups

In 2017 we designed and ran therapy groups for people who had lost a loved one to cancer. These were different to our support groups, which are unstructured and based on the needs of those who come along on the day. Instead, our Clinical Psychologists led 7 sessions of structured content focusing on specific aspects of grief and its associated difficulties, for example, difficult memories, troubled sleep, anxiety. The sessions were aimed at helping people learn more about loss and how to cope with all that arises from it, as well as helping them make stronger connections with others in a similar situation.

Our results showed that grief intensity, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety were reduced following on from people partaking in the group, and their feelings of self-compassion increased.

We are very grateful to those who took part and agreed to filling out our questionnaires. You can read the published journal article here.

Oxford Grief Study

One of our very own Trustees, Dr Kirsten Smith, carried out a huge project on exploring the risk factors for experiencing complicated grief reactions. She identified that the coping strategies people turn to in the first few months after a bereavement could predict how long and severe the grieving process will be. 

While grieving is normal and to be expected after a loved one dies, some people experience a prolonged and severe form of grief, at levels requiring clinical treatment. 

Dr Smith’s study identified several factors that could lead to this extended period of severe grief. The people found most likely to suffer from it were:

  • Parents who had lost a child;
  • People who engaged in ‘unhelpful’ coping strategies such as avoidance of reminders of their grief and ruminative repetitive thinking;
  • People who had negative thoughts about what the loss meant about themselves and their relationships to other people;
  • People whose memories of their loss were intrusive and distressing.

The study raises hopes of better targeted treatment for those who could now be predicted to be most affected. If the right ‘cognitive factors’ – the way people think, remember, and respond – could be targeted, it could help alleviate the symptoms of severe grief.

You can read more on Dr Smith’s study by clicking here.

 

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