Both because I saw it cited in The Chicago Tribune on the 21st and because I am doing some research for a project I am working on, I read a study recently published in JAMA, An Empirical Examination of the Stage Theory of Grief.
I have several “issues” with the study and article, e.g. their mathematically manipulating their data to get a graph that agrees with their hypothesis supporting the stage theory of grief, but more on some of those issues on a later date.
The thing I found most irritating (to say the least) and something I saw pulled from the article in several other publications was their claim that: “those individuals who experience any of the (negative) indicators beyond 6 months postloss would appear to deviate from the normal response to loss”. Never mind that they categorize some responses/emotions to loss of a loved one as “negative” that don’t seem to me to be all that “negative”, the data they present does not support that claim. Certainly, common sense and experience argue against it as well.
Their data show fairly minimal decrease in “yearning” from their 6-12 month to their 12-24 month periods (3.18 on a 1 to 5 scale to 2.64, down from 3.77 in the initial 1-6 month period) and I think one could argue their data does not seem to be a clinically significant change at all across the measurements. Depression goes from 2.29 (again 1 to 5 scale) at 1-6 month, through 2.29 at 6-12 months, to 1.80 at 12-24 months. At no time do any of their indicators go to one (generally “impact felt less than once per month”). They have no “0” in their scales, although in their manipulated data graph it appears that they do.
I just don’t see it; their “measures of grief” do not go away at 6 months. The individual’s continued to experience significant grief symptoms beyond 6 months. Now, before someone jumps on it, I am not saying the folks don’t need help working on their grieving, I am saying that to declare it not “normal” is a disservice and to communicate to “others” that folks should be over it in 6 months is an even worse disservice. People “don’t get over it” in 6 months. It is my contention that you never get over it, but more on that in the future.