The pain of grief: Exploring the concept of psychological pain and its relation to complicated grief, depression, and risk for suicide in bereaved adults

Journal of Clinical Psychology

Madelyn R. Frumkin, Donald J. Robinaugh, Nicole J. LeBlanc, Zeba Ahmad , Eric Bui, Matthew K. Nock, Naomi M. Simon & Richard J. McNally


Objective: Emotional or psychological pain is a core symptom of complicated grief (CG), yet its correlates are largely unexamined among bereaved individuals.

Method: Bereaved adults (N = 135) completed self‐reports regarding psychological pain, CG, depression, and suicidality. We assessed correlations among these variables and tested whether psychological pain was elevated among individuals with CG and individuals with current or past suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Using logistic regression, we also assessed psychological pain, depression, and CG symptom severity as predictors of suicide risk.

Results: Psychological pain was strongly associated with both CG and depression severity and was elevated among subjects reporting current or past suicidality. CG and depression were not statistically significant predictors of suicidal ideation after accounting for the effects of psychological pain.

Conclusions: Psychological pain is strongly associated with bereavement‐related psychopathology and warrants further investigation in studies examining the nature and treatment of CG.

First published: 14 July 2020

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