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Bereaved mothers’ and fathers’ prolonged grief and psychological health 1 to 5 years after loss-A nationwide study

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Pohlkamp, L.; Kreicbergs, U.; Sveen, J.

OBJECTIVE: To assess differences in prolonged grief, depression, posttraumatic stress, and sleep disturbances in bereaved parents across years since loss (1-5 years) and by gender and to assess potential interactive effects of time since loss and gender on bereavement outcomes. METHODS: This study examined symptom levels of prolonged grief disorder, depression, posttraumatic stress, and insomnia in bereaved parents. A sample, including 133 mothers and 92 fathers who had lost a child to cancer 1 to 5 years previously, subdivided to five subsamples, one for each year since loss. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to assess differences in symptom levels, related to years since loss, and gender. RESULTS: Regardless of how many years had passed since the loss, symptom levels of prolonged grief, depression, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and insomnia were elevated in all subsamples. Mothers showed higher symptom levels of prolonged grief, depression, and posttraumatic stress than fathers. However, no significant interaction effects were found between years since loss and gender on any of the symptom levels. CONCLUSIONS: Cancer-bereaved mothers and fathers are vulnerable to prolonged grief and psychological symptoms up to 5 years after the death of their child. Findings highlight that bereaved parents may need long-term support, and the results deserve further attention in research and clinical care.

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