Bereavement in Times of COVID-19: A Review and Theoretical Framework

OMEGA- Journal of Death and Dying

Margaret Stroebe & Henk Schut


A review of the literature on adaptation to bereavement during the COVID-19 pandemic was conducted to assess the current state of knowledge. Scopus, Web of Science and Google Scholar databases were searched for studies published during the first 6 months of the COVID-19 outbreak. 44 articles were included in the review. Narrative synthesis showed that knowledge was largely based on expert assessments of prior bereavement research and professional experience; there is so far absence of empirical evidence linking features of COVID-19 bereavement situations to health outcomes. Severe negative consequences have been consistently predicted by authors. There is still relatively little consideration of positive or compensatory processes or the possibility that these could alleviate the effect of the shocking, traumatic circumstances. With two notable exceptions, there has been lack of attention to the role of theoretical models for guiding research and practice. A theoretical perspective (the Dual Process Model, DPM) was applied to the information derived from the available articles. Two features of the DPM framework illustrated its relevance: 1. It enables systematic assessment of the range of lossand restoration-related challenges for the bereaved; 2. It speaks for extension of psychotherapeutic intervention to manage secondary, restoration- as well as primary, loss-oriented stressors; studies have demonstrated that this may increase the effectiveness of intervention. Directions for future research and DPM application are suggested.

Keywords: bereavement, grief, health, COVID-19, pandemic, review, theory, dual process model

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