Bereavement and mental health after sudden and violent losses: a review

Psychiatry. Spring 2012;75(1):76-97. doi: 10.1521/psyc.2012.75.1.76.

Abstract

This paper reviews the literature on the psychological consequences of sudden and violent losses, including disaster and military losses. It also reviews risk and resilience factors for grief and mental health and describes the effects and possible benefit of psychosocial interventions. The review shows gaps in the literature on grief and bereavement after sudden and violent deaths. Still, some preliminary conclusions can be made. Several studies show that a sudden and violent loss of a loved one can adversely affect mental health and grief in a substantial number of the bereaved. The prevalence of mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder (MDD), and prolonged grief disorder (PGD, also termed complicated grief) varies widely, however, from study to study. Also, mental health disorders are more elevated after sudden and violent losses than losses following natural deaths, and the trajectory of recovery seems to be slower. Several factors related to the circumstances of the loss may put the bereaved at heightened risk for mental distress. These factors may be differentially related to different outcomes; some increase the risk for PTSD, others for PGD. Given the special circumstances, bereavement following sudden and violent death may require different interventions than for loss from natural death. Recommendations for future research and clinical implications are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Bereavement*
  • Cause of Death
  • Counseling
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Disasters
  • Grief
  • Humans
  • Resilience, Psychological
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Violence / psychology*
  • Warfare