UBC Theses and Dissertations
Short-term reactions to the death of a spouse and/or close friend in later life Lehman, Allen J.
The death of a friend and the death of a spouse frequently accompany later life . The former has received scant empirical attention and the bereavement overload occasioned by the combination of these losses only has been addressed in the conceptual literature. This study used data from the Canadian national Survey on Ageing and Independence (1991), and examined the short-term reactions of women and men aged 65 and older to the death of a close friend, a spouse, or both, in comparison with a non-bereaved group. Drawing on Weiss' (1993) conceptual perspective on loss, bereaved individuals' "recovery" or adjustment to loss was assessed on multiple dimensions of effective personal and social functioning: perceived health, negative affect, positive affect, social involvement, emotional investment, family satisfaction, and friend satisfaction . Based on Weiss* (1993) model that maintains the loss of a relationship of attachment (i.e., spouse) evokes more intense bereavement reactions than the loss of a relationship of community (i.e., close friend), it was predicted that the negative effects of bereavement would be the greatest for the spouse bereaved, which would be significantly greater than the peer bereaved, which would be significantly greater than the non-bereaved. A further expectation was that reactions of the multiple bereaved individuals would be equal to or greater than the spouse bereaved. Several expected as well as unexpected findings were revealed. Four primary patterns of findings included: (a) only for the measure of negative affect were the bereavement status comparisons consistent with predictions; (b) spouse and multiple bereaved individuals' indicated comparable levels of functioning; (c) the peer bereaved unexpectedly reported greater effective personal and social functioning than the non-bereaved; and (d) gender influenced levels of functioning, with women tending to indicate better functioning than men. This study provides a greater understanding of older adults' reactions to the loss of close interpersonal relationships and sheds light on the nature and meaning of close interpersonalties in later life . Suggestions are offered for future research.
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