I explore the complexities of moral experience during the phase of life after a terminal diagnosis by examining the experiences of one woman living as a hospice patient in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. Introducing the notion of “existential ambivalence,” I show that this can be a period of deep uncertainty, in which what matters to individuals can shift and fluctuate through time, not necessarily lining up with collective ideals of “the good death.” I focus on a promise this woman made that continued to pull her toward a version of living well while she was also pulled toward dying.
Significant strides have been made in the trauma and grief fields to address the unique needs of those who have lost a loved one to violent death. Several treatment techniques have been found to be effective for symptoms of trauma and grief that are prevalent among violent loss survivors including restorative retelling and cognitive behavioral strategies. Current interventions either are tailored for a specific mental health problem or are more universal in nature for grief related to violent loss. This paper presents an evidence-based and guided modular approach for responding to the myriad potential mental health needs of violent loss survivors. A comprehensive module-based structured intervention for violent loss survivors, which specifically targets several common mental health difficulties following traumatic loss, may offer clinicians a thorough and flexible approach guided by clinical assessment to address the distinctive and common issues violent loss survivors often face.
Understanding survivors’ perspectives on treatment is important in a patient-centered approach to developing interventions for traumatic loss. Focus groups were conducted with 23 motor vehicle crash, suicide, and homicide survivors. Survivors’ attitudes toward a modular treatment for traumatic loss were assessed. This study also sought to explore survivors’ perspectives on the acceptability of existing evidence-based practice elements in the treatment of bereavement-related mental health problems. Qualitative analyses suggest that survivors liked a modular treatment approach and agreed that existing practice elements could be useful in addressing bereavement-related concerns. Implications for developing a modular treatment package for traumatic loss are discussed.
The United States military began to experience a steady increase in suicide rates across all service branches at the inception of the wars in Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003). As the number of suicide deaths increased, so did the number of affected survivors who seek postvention support. Unique issues that accompany suicide death may expose survivors to a more distressing and complicated grief process. Peer support has clinically been observed to be widely utilized by suicide loss survivors. This article explores unique issues accompanying military suicide loss, potential benefits of postvention peer-based support, clinical considerations, and future directions.
Pathfinders is a 10-session program developed in a community setting to creatively address the diverse needs of bereaved children and families, prevent complications of grief and trauma, and promote healthy adaptation. It is an accessible, grief-focused and trauma-informed family systems model that is theory-driven, research-informed, and grounded in practice-based evidence. Pathfinders incorporates principles central to narrative approaches, with a focus on restorative processes for helping children and families stay on track developmentally. This article outlines the structure, process, and content of Pathfinders, including examples of creative interventions used within the program.
Restorative retelling (RR) is an evidence-based procedure for facilitating adaptation following traumatic bereavement. In this paper, we introduce performative retelling (PR), a variation on RR, which fosters healing from personal losses and portrays personal reactions to collective tragedy. We describe our collaboration with an ex-offender reentry program, the Memphis Police Department, and Playback Theatre to use improvisational community theatre to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the citizens they serve. We review program outcomes to-date and illustrate its impact using participant stories. We argue that training police and citizens in PR can potentially transform broken narratives of police-community relations.
Objectives: To explore pharmacists’ perspectives on practice, availability, and barriers related to opioids.
Methods: This cross-sectional study evaluated pharmacists’ perspectives on practice, availability, and barriers related to opioids. Electronic surveys were distributed to pharmacists practicing in Georgia via Survey Monkey. The 2 or Fisher Exact test was used to test differences in practice, availability, and barriers with respect to type of pharmacy and location of pharmacy.
Results: Most participating pharmacists practiced in an independent (47%) or community chain pharmacies (37%). The majority checked the Prescription Drug-Monitoring Program (PDMP) on a regular basis (73%), and about a third reported contacting the prescriber prior to dispensing. The most common barrier included concerns about diversion (82%) and illicit use (90%). About two-thirds reported experiencing a shortage of opioids. Significant differences (P < .05) were found between types of pharmacy in dispensing practices, availability, and barriers. No significant differences were found with respect to pharmacy location.
Conclusion: Findings suggest that pharmacists are facing challenges in availability of opioids and are employing stewardship approaches to optimize dispensing practices. This research provides insight regarding broken links in the “pain relief chain” and identifies opportunities to improve the accessibility of opioids when medically indicated. Pharmacists can play an important role in addressing the opioid crisis as well as providing quality care to patients with cancer seeking pain relief.
Parents who experience the death of a child are at high risk for psychopathology. Because a large percentage of pediatric deaths occur in the pediatric intensive care unit each year, a follow-up meeting between bereaved parents and intensivists could provide essential emotional support, although some parents may not attend. The aim of this study was to explore demographic and medical factors that may distinguish between bereaved parents who attend a follow-up meeting with their child’s pediatric intensivist and those who do not. Our analysis revealed that parents of children who died of trauma were less likely to attend a follow-up meeting with an intensivist. It is possible that symptoms of posttraumatic stress play a role in these findings. Enhanced efforts to identify other interventions for this specific subset of bereaved parents may be necessary.
With mounting empirical evidence that interpersonal closeness and conflict with the deceased prior to death are significant predictors of grief reactions following loss, accurate empirical examination of these two constructs is of high importance. Despite the utility of the Quality of Relationships Inventory (QRI) in numerous domains of research, the original instrument was not constructed with a predeath, mourner–decedent relationship in mind. Therefore, this study clarified the factor structure of a modified QRI focusing on major dimensions of the predeath relationship with the deceased—dynamics that could have strong implications for the survivor’s bereavement trajectory. An exploratory factor analysis of 386 bereaved adults revealed two salient factors, deemed closeness and conflict. These results suggest that the modified bereavement version of the QRI, designated the Quality of Relationships Inventory–Bereavement version, is well positioned to advance research in thanatology, with possible limitations noted in the range of relationships to which it is applicable.
Are beliefs about and behaviors toward the Bible associated with voluntary euthanasia attitudes? Using General Social Survey data and multivariate logistic regression, I find that individuals’ views of the authorship and epistemological status of the Bible; the importance of the Bible in making decisions; and the frequency in which individuals read the Bible are associated with negative voluntary euthanasia attitudes, even when controlling for other religiosity and sociodemographic predictors. I find that the importance of the Bible in making decisions accounts for the effect of frequency of reading the Bible and viewing the Bible as the inspired word of God.
Counseling professionals and graduate students (N = 117) recruited online read a randomly assigned one-paragraph vignette about either a nonrational or rational suicide involving an imaginary loved one. Then, they completed the Grief Experiences Questionnaire (GEQ) about how they would feel. The nonrational suicide group expected significantly more search for explanation than the rational suicide group but was not significantly different on the other six GEQ subscales. All participants expected few distressing reactions to either vignette, suggesting a one-paragraph vignette may not be sufficient to induce the kind of grief many experience when a loved one dies by suicide.
The present study examines how meaning and belief in God or god(s) is related to bereavement outcomes. Data from 299 participants residing in the United States indicated that the variables of search for meaning, presence of meaning, and belief in God or god(s) were significantly related to posttraumatic growth, complicated grief, and psychological distress. Results from this study can be used to identify appropriate clinical strategies for mental health practitioners working with bereaved clients and will expand the breadth of literature on bereavement with atheist populations in the United States.
Knowledge about what psychological characteristics underlie complicated grief (CG) is limited. The current study examined the five-factor personality traits in 81 bereaved adults with (n = 51) and without (n = 30) CG. A trained doctoral-level clinician evaluated participants using a structured, diagnostic psychiatric interview, and they completed self-report measures of grief and personality. A multiple regression model indicated that higher levels of neuroticism were associated with greater CG symptom severity, implicating neuroticism in the development of CG. Future prospective studies confirming it as a risk factor for the development of CG are warranted.
Young widowhood is a unique experience that has received little in-depth attention in research and clinical settings. The present study examined the lived experiences of young men and women who had lost a spouse. Eleven men and women between the ages of 18 and 49 were interviewed about their experiences postloss using phenomenological methods. After coding the interviews, three themes emerged: (1) relationship prior to death, (2) coping, and (3) concerns. Clinical implications included the need for more accessible resources for young widowed individuals, such as therapeutic services, finances, and childcare.
People’s preferences for memorializing loved ones vary and may depend on their personal attitudes and experiences with death. Participants (N = 145) completed the memorializing preferences checklist and measures of personal attitudes and life experiences with death. Factor analysis identified four memorializing preferences. In terms of predicting preferences, greater acknowledgment of death, and having experienced more losses, predicted preference for memorializing through societal tradition, community legacy, and continuing intimacy. Greater death resistance and less closeness to the deceased predicted preference for memorializing through confronting loss. Findings are discussed in terms of the range of preferences for and motivations behind memorializing.
The death of a significant person, especially when it comes tragically or prematurely, can shake the foundations of our assumptive and relational world and lead to anguished attempts to find meaning in the loss and in our lives in its aftermath. In this article, I review one program of research focused on this attempt at meaning reconstruction, describe recently developed measures of meaning in mourning, and discuss several therapeutic techniques for helping clients make sense of the death and rework their attachment relationship to the deceased. I conclude by illustrating some of this work in my therapy with a couple grieving the loss of not one but two children to tragic accidents, as they try to adapt to a compound traumatic bereavement.
Interventions for bereaved children and families range from supportive counseling, designed to promote social connectedness and expression of feelings and thoughts about the deceased, to intensive trauma/grief-specific therapy, designed to ameliorate symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. That said, professionals have few brief assessment instruments to match response and functioning to appropriate interventions. To expedite the screening and referral process for bereaved families, Brown, Goodman, and Swiecicki (2008) developed the PTSD and Depression Screener for Bereaved Youth, a 19-item measure of bereavement-related history and symptoms of PTSD and depression. The current study is a psychometric evaluation of the Screener for Bereaved Youth. Data were collected from 284 bereaved children, 6–17 years of age (M = 12.4; SD = 2.9). A factor analysis revealed distinct subscales for PTSD (eight items) and depression (four items). The PTSD and depression subscales showed both concurrent and discriminant validity. Endorsement of four items on either subscale was associated with meeting full criteria on more extensive measures of PTSD and depression. These findings are discussed with specific consideration to the multiple systems in which the measure could be used and applications to clinical services.
Background: Although blood cancers are accompanied by a high level of prognostic uncertainty, little is known about when and how hematologic oncologists discuss prognosis.
Objectives: Characterize reported practices and predictors of prognostic discussions for a cohort of hematologic oncologists.
Design: Cross-sectional mailed survey in 2015.
etting/Subjects: U.S.-based hematologic oncologists providing clinical care for adult patients with blood cancers.
Measurements: We conducted univariable and multivariable analyses assessing the association of clinician characteristics with reported frequency of initiation of prognostic discussions, type of terminology used, and whether prognosis is readdressed.
Results: We received 349 surveys (response rate = 57.3%). The majority of respondents (60.3%) reported conducting prognostic discussions with “most” (>95%) of their patients. More than half (56.8%) preferred general/qualitative rather than specific/numeric terms when discussing prognosis. Although 91.3% reported that they typically first initiate prognostic discussions at diagnosis, 17.7% reported routinely never readdressing prognosis or waiting until death is imminent to revisit the topic. Hematologic oncologists with =15 years since medical school graduation (odds ratio [OR] 0.51; confidence interval (95% CI) 0.30–0.88) and those who considered prognostic uncertainty a barrier to quality end-of-life care (OR 0.57; 95% CI 0.35–0.90) had significantly lower odds of discussing prognosis with “most” patients.
onclusions: Although the majority of hematologic oncologists reported discussing prognosis with their patients, most prefer general/qualitative terms. Moreover, even though prognosis evolves during the disease course, nearly one in five reported never readdressing prognosis or only doing so near death. These findings suggest the need for structured interventions to improve prognostic communication for patients with blood cancers.
Background: End-of-life cancer care involves multidisciplinary teams working in various settings. Evaluating the quality of care and the feedback from such processes is an important aspect of health care quality improvement. Our retrospective cohort study reviewed health care use by lung cancer patients at end of life, their reasons for visiting the emergency department (ed), and feedback from regional health care professionals.
Methods: We assessed 162 Ontario patients with small-cell and relapsed or advanced non-small-cell lung cancer. Demographics, disease characteristics, and resource use were collected, and the consenting caregivers for patients with ed visits were interviewed. Study results were disseminated, and feedback about barriers to care was sought.
Results: Median patient age was 69 years; 73% of the group had non-small-cell lung cancer; and 39% and 69% had received chemotherapy and radiation therapy respectively. Median overall survival was 5.6 months. In the last 3 months of life, 93% of the study patients had visited an oncologist, 67% had telephoned their oncology team, 86% had received homecare, and 73% had visited the ed. Death occurred for 55% of the patients in hospital; 23%, at home; and 22%, in hospice. Goals of care had been documented for 68% of the patients. Homecare for longer than 3 months was associated with fewer ed visits (80.3% vs. 62.1%, p = 0.022). Key themes from stakeholders included the need for more resources and for effective communication between care teams.
Conclusions: Use of acute-care services and rates of death in an acute-care facility are both high for lung cancer patients approaching end of life. In our study, interprofessional and patient-provider communication, earlier connection to homecare services, and improved access to community care were highlighted as having the potential to lower the need for acute-care resources.