Sense-making, grief, and the experience of violent loss: toward a mediational model

Death Stud. 2006 Jun;30(5):403-28. doi: 10.1080/07481180600614351.


Bereavement following violent loss by accident, homicide or suicide increases the risk for complications in grieving. This is the first study to examine a constructivist model of grief that proposes that sense-making, or the capacity to construct an understanding of the loss experience, mediates the association between violent death and complicated grief symptomatology. An ethnically diverse sample of 1,056 recently bereaved college students completed the Inventory of Complicated Grief (ICG) and questions assessing the degree of sense-making and the circumstances surrounding their losses. Consistent with this study's primary hypothesis, sense-making emerged as an explanatory mechanism for the association between violent loss and complications in grieving. Specifically, the results revealed that sense-making explained this relation, even when the element of sudden bereavement was shared by all of the participants. Overall, this study provides initial support for a model of grief in which failure to find meaning in a loss is conceptualized as a crucial pathway to complicated grief symptomatology.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Grief*
  • Homicide
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Violence* / psychology