Traumatic loss: Mental health consequences and implications for treatment and prevention

P.A. Boelen, M. Olff, G. E. Smid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

38 Downloads (Pure)


Traumatic loss involves the loss of loved ones in the context of potentially traumatizing circumstances and is a commonly reported traumatic event. It may give rise to disturbed grief, called prolonged grief disorder (PGD) in ICD-11 and persistent complex bereavement disorder (PCBD) in DSM-5, combined with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. The recent inclusion of grief disorders in both DSM-5 and ICD-11 have spurred research on grief-related psychopathology. This special issue on traumatic loss includes 10 articles and two letters. Topics addressed include diagnostic criteria for PGD, children’s perspectives on life after parental intimate partner homicide, and the impact of visiting the site of deaths caused by terror. Early indicators of problematic grief trajectories are addressed, as well as moderators and mediators of disordered grief, including coping strategies, rumination, and meaning-making. Further, a meta-analysis synthesizing research findings on correlates of disturbed grief following traumatic loss is presented. Finally, specialized treatments as Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for grief are addressed, and predictors of treatment response for CBT for PGD including levels of self-blame and avoidance are scrutinized. As such, the articles included in this special issue increase our understanding of the needs of people confronted with traumatic loss and bring promising findings with regard to diagnosis, prevention, and specialized treatment in children, young people and adults. This article also introduces a hypothetical staging, profiling, and stepped care model which may offer a template to integrate existing and emerging research findings on possible courses and correlates of grief, in order to inform treatment decisions.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychotraumatology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2019

Cite this