A Cognitive Attachment Model of prolonged grief: Integrating attachments, memory, and identity

  • Maccallum F
  • Bryant R
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Abstract

Prolonged grief (PG), otherwise known as complicated grief, has attracted much attention in recent years as a potentially debilitating condition that affects approximately 10% of bereaved people. We propose a model of PG that integrates processes of attachment, self-identity, and autobiographical memory. The paper commences with a discussion of the PG construct and reviews current evidence regarding the distinctiveness of PG from other bereavement related-outcomes. We then review the evidence regarding the dysfunctional attachments, appraisals, and coping styles that people with PG display. Recent evidence pertaining to the patterns of autobiographical memory in PG is described in the context of the self-memory system. This system provides a unifying framework to understand the roles of personal memories, identity, attachments, and coping responses in PG. The proposed model places emphasis on how one's sense of identity influences yearning, memories of the deceased, appraisals, and coping strategies, to maintain a focus on the loss. The model is discussed in relation to existing models of PG. The potential for shaping treatment strategies to shift perceptions of the self is then outlined. Finally, we outline future directions to test propositions stemming from the model and enhance our understanding of the mechanisms underlying PG. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Attachment
  • Autobiographical memory
  • Complicated grief
  • Prolonged grief
  • Self

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