Unresolved grief in combat veterans with PTSD

J Anxiety Disord. 2004;18(6):745-55. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2003.09.005.


Clinicians have documented the importance of loss of comrades during combat as a significant source of distress. However, empirical studies have not focused on unresolved grief as a possible outcome of combat experiences. Consequently, unresolved grief has often been treated "after the fact" in the context of treating PTSD and depressive symptoms. In this study, we therefore, sought to demonstrate the prominence of combat-related grief-specific symptoms in a sample of Vietnam veterans being treated for PTSD. Our results indicated that indeed this sample of veterans reported high levels of grief-specific symptoms comparable to that found in bereaved individuals whose spouse had recently died, verifying its prominence as an important component of combat-related stress. Furthermore, grief severity was uniquely associated with losses of comrades during combat whereas no such relationship was shown for trauma or depressive symptoms. The latter finding suggested that in fact higher levels of grief stemmed from interpersonal losses during the war and was not simply an artifact of current general distress level.

MeSH terms

  • Bereavement
  • Combat Disorders / diagnosis
  • Combat Disorders / psychology*
  • Combat Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / psychology
  • Grief*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Inventory
  • Risk Factors
  • United States
  • Veterans / psychology*
  • Vietnam