BEYOND DEPRESSION: YEARNING FOR THE LOSS OF A LOVED ONE
Studies assessing the impact of relationship quality and social support on marital bereavement have typically focussed on depressive symptoms as the major (and often only) bereavement outcome. Although sadness and depression are important symptoms of grieving, they are neither the only nor necessarily the most important ones. We argue that in addition to measures of depression, grief measures need to be used in assessing bereavement outcome. However, grief measures do not only assess reactions that are specific to bereavement such as yearning, but also general responses that grief shares with other critical life events (e. g., anxiety, shock, anger, intrusive thoughts, and despair). We would expect marital quality to only affect yearning for the loved one who died, but not other more general grief reactions. In contrast, experiencing support from family and friends, though unlikely to reduce yearning, might ameliorate these general grief symptoms as well as depression. Using data on widows from the Changing Lives of Older Couples (CLOC) study, a large-scale prospective study of older couples, we assessed the relationship between marital quality and social support with depression and grief on the death of a spouse. Consistent with hypotheses, social support but not relationship quality was associated with depression and general grief reactions. In contrast, relationship quality but not social support was associated with yearning. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.