Does writing about the bereavement lessen grief following sudden, unintentional death?

Death Stud. 2000 Mar;24(2):115-34.

Range LM1, Kovac SH, Marion MS.

Writing about traumatic events produces improvement in an array of areas including physical and psychological functioning. To see if these improvements extended to improved bereavement recovery after the accidental or homicidal death of a loved one, 64 undergraduates (51 women, 13 men) began, and 44 completed, a writing project. At pretest, they completed measures of depression, anxiety, grief, impact, and non-routine health visits. Then, they were randomly assigned to write about either the bereavement experience (profound condition), or innocuous topics (trivial condition). They wrote for 15 minutes a day for four days, then completed the same measures a second time (posttest). Six weeks later, they were mailed the same measures again (follow-up). A 2 (CONDITION: Profound versus Trivial) x 3 (Time: Pre-, Post-, or Follow-up) MANOVA yielded a significant main effect for time, but no main effect for condition and no interaction. Follow-up ANOVAs indicated that, across conditions, from pretest to follow-up testing participants reported less anxiety and depression, less impact, greater grief recovery, but about the same health center visits. A 2 (CONDITION) x 4 (Writing Day) MANOVA and follow-up tests indicated that those in the profound condition reported less subjective distress from Day 1 to Day 3, compared to those in the trivial condition. Combined with Kovac and Range (1999), present results suggest that writing projects may be more beneficial to those experiencing the unique bereavement of suicidal death, rather than those experiencing the nonintentional death of a loved one by accident or homicide.


Writing projects: lessening undergraduates’ unique suicidal bereavement.

Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2000 Spring;30(1):50-60.

Kovac SH1, Range LM.

To assess if writing projects lessen undergraduates’ grief following a loved one’s suicide, 40 students whose loved one died by suicide in the past 2 years wrote on four occasions over 2 weeks about profound topics (e.g., events and emotions surrounding the death) or trivial topics (e.g., description of the previous meal). All participants completed pre- and posttest measures of grief and self-reported health visits, and 75% completed the same measures at 6-week mailed follow-up. As expected, individuals in the profound condition reported less grief associated with suicide at follow-up than those in the trivial condition. However, the trivial and profound groups were not significantly different in general grief or health visits. Writing about grief associated with the suicide of a loved one appeared to reduce suicidal grief associated with this event. However, this benefit did not extend to general grief or physical health.

Figures of grief: metaphors from a bereavement writing group.

Omega (Westport). 2007-2008;56(4):359-67.

Young E1.

In a community-based bereavement writing group, patterns of metaphor emerged and helped the group members identify and deal with particularly challenging aspects of death and grief, including taboo subjects such as abuse and suicide. The metaphors show how a bereavement writing group functioned to address the needs of people coping with different kinds of grief effectively and efficiently. Analysis of the specific metaphors suggests why figurative language enabled the group to bond quickly and strongly, delve into the complex emotions death elicits, and integrate experiences of loss and grief safely and productively. The patterns of metaphors the group produced in their writing about death and grief are discussed in terms of bereavement processes, and the topics the group used to elicit the figures of speech are presented for further refinement and use.