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Grief following homicidal loss

PhD ceremony:Ms M.Y. van Denderen
When:January 12, 2017
Start:12:45
Supervisors:prof. dr. A. (Jos) de Keijser, prof. dr. P.A. boelen
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Behavioural and Social Sciences

Therapy helps relatives to handle murder

People confronted with homicidal loss have to cope with separation distress, related to their loss, and traumatic distress, associated with the circumstances surrounding the death. These reactions are related to complicated grief and posttraumatic stress symptoms.

Based on a questionnaire study among 312 homicidally bereaved individuals, it was found that on average of seven years after the murder, 33% of the bereaved individuals suffered from post-traumatic stress symptoms, and 82% of complicated grief symptoms. These complaints did not differ depending on whether the perpetrator was known or unknown or whether the perpetrator was a relative of the bereaved individual.

Post-traumatic stress and complicated grief symptoms were found to be related to revenge, although no causal relationship could be established due to the cross-sectional design of the study. Post-traumatic stress- and complicated grief symptoms were also associated withnegative cognitions about the self, catastrophic misinterpretations of one own grief reactions and depressive avoidance. Anxious avoidance and negative cognitions about the future were associated with thoughts and feelings of revenge.

Based on a randomized controlled trial, it was found that bereaved individuals with high levels of posttraumatic stress- and complicated grief symptoms benefit from a treatment of eight sessions in which cognitive behavioral therapy and EMDR is applied.