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Clin Psychol Psychother. 2011 Nov-Dec;18(6):439-44. doi: 10.1002/cpp.731. Epub 2010 Dec 1.

Personal goals and prolonged grief disorder symptoms.

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Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, Utrecht University, the Netherlands.


Prolonged grief disorder (PGD, previously called complicated grief) is a debilitating condition that can develop following the loss of a loved one. The present study investigated the relationship between different features of personal goals of bereaved individuals and PGD symptom severity. To this end, 160 bereaved people were asked to write down seven important personal goals and to complete self-report measures of PGD and depression symptom severity. With respect to the form of goals, the findings showed that more severe PGD symptomatology was associated with lower specificity of goals, a reduced sense of control over achieving goals and a lower perceived likelihood of achieving goals. With respect to the content of the goals, it was found that mourners with more severe levels of PGD symptoms reported more goals that were associated with loss (compared with goals unrelated to the loss), more goals related to feeling states and less goals related to work/education and close relationships. Implications of these findings are discussed. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Key Practitioner Message: • The severity of prolonged grief disorder (PGD) symptoms after bereavement is associated with different features of personal goals, including reduced specificity of goals, lower perceived probability and controllability of achieving goals and an enhanced focus on loss-related goals and goals related to feeling states. • In the treatment of PGD, it could be useful to change the negative beliefs that patients have about the probability and controllability of achieving goals and to help them in finding ways to achieve valued goals. • As recovery from loss hinges (in part) on the person's ability to continue (or restore) activities that are satisfying and meaningful, it could furthermore be fruitful to help patients to reduce their focus on 'inward-directed' goals (associated with their own feelings) and to increase their focus on 'outward-directed' goals (related to social, recreational and occupational activities).

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