Grief in a Religious Context Essay Sample
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Grief in a Religious Context Essay Sample
The U.S. National Library of Medicine describes Grief as a reaction to a major loss, and not as a state of major depression as many might assume. Most Psychology textbooks suggest that the experience of grief is usually unhappiness and pain, but it is not limited to these. Interestingly, current research indicates that bereavement involves much more than pain and sadness. The purpose of this paper is to examine the reactions to a loss for those who are religious and/or attached to God in some spiritual way. In order to do this, I will be summarizing and analyzing a study that examined the role of attachment to god, meaning, and religious coping as mediators in the grief experience Kelley and Chan (2012). Those who have experienced a loss in their life are well aware of how unhappy and painful this can be, but meaning in a process of coping and its relation to an attachment to God or religion, is usually overlooked. Although 83% of the US population believes in a God, grief experience is rarely related to an attachment to God or religion as part of coping (Pew Research Center, 2009). Bowlby (1969) describes his attachment theory as the human need to seek security and comfort in relationships with attachment figures throughout the lifespan.
If these attachment figures are accessible and responsive consistently enough, they become a refuge in a stressing time and a protected space from which people can then feel free to engage with and explore the world (Ainsworth, 1967). Kirkpatrick (1999, 2005) believes that a personal relationship with God offers a kind of love or attachment like that experienced in the mother–infant relationship. This relationship involves and increases many aspects of an active attachment process. The goal of these aspects is to achieve and maintain a relationship with God. These aspects are religious behaviors such as prayer. When it comes to coping with religion, many while confronting crisis, seek these resources because they offer something beyond the limits of this world (Pargament, 1997; Pargament & Abu Raiya, 2007). Even though many of those who experience a loss may seek coping in any type of religion, this article focuses on those who seek Christianity as their means to coping and attachment. According to Pargament (1997), people’s religious coping efforts are shaped by their orienting system, which is the system of ‘‘well-established beliefs, practices, attitudes, goals, and values’’ (Pargament & Abu Raiya, 2007, p. 743) that people bring to each life circumstance and that influences coping behavior.
Pargament and Abu Raiya (2007) suggested that religious coping efforts that provided helpful effects over time tend to share certain features. They ‘‘reflect a secure relationship with God, a belief that there is a greater meaning to be found, and a sense of spiritual connectedness with others’’ (Pargament & Abu Raiya, 2007, p. 748). In addition, religious coping efforts that may have harmful outcomes may also tend to share certain features. They ‘‘reflect an ominous view of the world and a religious struggle to find and conserve significance in life’’ (Pargament & Abu Raiya, 2007, p. 749). Humans build the context of meaning in order to understand themselves and life, to generate purpose, and to shape goals and expectations for the future. Loss can severely disrupt or even destroy the context of meaning created (Janoff-Bulman, 1989).
Since human beings are constantly seeking meaning (Neimeyer, 1999, p. 67), the process of grief may reaffirming one’s meaning system or rebuild meaning by adjusting to the loss and allowing one to embrace to one’s transformed life (Neimeyer, 2001). Nevertheless not everyone searches for meaning after loss, and this might interfere with the process of adjustment. Davis et al (2000) found out on his research that those who did not search for meaning after the loss, their process of adjustment were better than the average. In contrast, those participants who continued to search for meaning without finding it had the poorest adjustment. Posttraumatic growth could be closely related to meaning. Growth comes from disruption of meaning following loss, and concluding in an embrace of new and meaningful life goals (Davis, 2008). Schaefer and Moos (1992), proposed positive events and growth after a stressful event may have an outcome of: improved relationships, stronger problem-solving skills, and enhanced sense of self. Methodology
This study sampled 93 adults who were at least 18 years of age and had experienced a significant death in the past 12 months. The age range of participants was from 18 to 77 years old. 77.4% of the participants were female. 94.6% of the participants were Caucasian and 5.5% were of various minority groups. Most of the participants were Christian. Only 8.7% were identifying with other religious affiliations and 4.3% had no religious affiliation. 71.1% of the participants were committed or involved in their religious practices, but only 18.9% reported being personally and spiritually committed but not very involved in an organized way. The percentage of those who had lost a parent was 42.4%, a husband, 22.8%, and those who had lost a friend were 8.7%. 77.4% of the participants considered themselves very close to the person who died. The age of the person who died ranged from 2 to 99 years old. Participants reported a fairly even distribution of time since the death, between 3 months and a year. The natures of deaths were, 47.6% expected and 52.4% unexpected. Almost all participants coped actively and/or received good support from others, 95.6% reporting several or many close relationships in their lives.
Participants were recruited through advertisements at universities, at hospice and grief support groups, religious institutions and agencies of varied denominations, in a statewide newspaper for funeral directors, and psychotherapists in private practice. Those who were willing to participate got in contact with Melissa M. Kelley who then sent a research packet with instruments they were to complete on their own and returned them to the sender. Kelley ended up sending 181 research packets which of 93 were returned in usable form giving the research a response rate of 51.38%. Measures
The measurements used in this research were, experiences in close relationships inventory, relationship with God scale, brief religious coping scale, inventory of complicated grief-revised, life attitude profile-revised, center for epidemiological studies depression scale, and stress-related growth scale. The Experiences in Close Relationships Inventory (ECR; Brennan, Clark, & Shaver, 1998) is a 36-item self-report measure of romantic attachment styles. The ECR contains two scales of 18 items each. One scale measures anxiety in attachment to others and the other scale measures avoidance in attachment to others. The language of some of the items was changed in order to include close relationships and not only romantic attachments. In the relationship with God scale they used a 12-item self-report measure of one’s style of attachment to God (Belavich, 1998; Belavich & Pargament, 2002). Some factor analysis of the items using principal axis factoring with a varimax rotation, found that anxious and avoidant attachment to God were hard to differentiate from each other in an abstract context. They also used other orthogonal rotational methods that did not give considerable results.
They only considered secure attachment to God as measured by this scale for their analysis since there was poor discriminant validity for anxious and avoidant attachment with the items. The Brief Religious Coping Scale (Brief RCOPE; Pargament, Smith, et al., 1998) incorporates aspects of religion with understandings of stress and coping. The Brief RCOPE is a 14-item scale that comes from the 105-item Religious Coping Scale and works to measure the Demographic variables. Participants were asked to complete this measure in reference to how they coped with the significant death, but only the first seven items were used for analysis. The Inventory of Complicated Grief–Revised (ICG-R; Prigerson & Jacobs, 2001) is a 34-item self-response scale that measures existence and severity of complicated grief symptomatology. Thirty of the items are rated on a 5-point scale. Many items measure frequency or duration of symptoms and some measure the degree to which a particular symptom is present. The reliability analysis indicated that this measurement tied together well by constantly capturing complicated grief as a concept.
The Life Attitude Profile–Revised (LAP-R; Reker, 1992) is a 48-item profile that measures the degree to which one has found and is motivated to find meaning and purpose in one’s life. It operationalizes both the meaning of existence and the person’s search for the meaning of existence. The Personal Meaning Index is a subscale of the LAP-R that has 16-item sum of the dimensions of purpose and coherence and was found to have a very good reliability. The Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) is a 20-item self-report instrument that assesses symptoms of depression (Radloff, 1977). This scale has strong psychometric properties and uses a diagnostic cutoff score of 16 in clinical practice. The scale gave good reliability for the sample and was used as a continuous evaluation to measure a spectrum of participant’s probability of being depressed. The Stress-Related Growth Scale (SRGS) is a 50-item self-report instrument with a 3-point Likert scale that measures positive outcomes or benefits that might increase after a stressful life event. Participants were asked to rate how much they had experienced each item of the scale as a result of their experience of a significant death. The self-report had very good reliability and factor analysis demonstrated that the items loaded well together. Data Analysis Plan
The data was first evaluated for measurement reliability and validity as described above. The researchers summed up the items from the measures for each latent variable, and the eight chosen variables were further examined on how fitted they were for a regression analysis. Models for regression tested the significance of meaning, secure attachment to God, and positive religious coping as potential mediators in predicting grief, depression, and stress-related growth. The role of secure attachment to God, meaning, and positive religious coping were used as central constructs in the model and tested their capacity for prediction with all other variables considered in our analysis. The first part of the analysis tested for direct effects by using separate multiple regression analyses for each of the endogenous variables.
The joint significance of exogenous variables, anxious and avoidant attachment to others, where tested along with mediating endogenous variables, secure attachment to God, meaning, positive religious coping, and depression, to predict two outcomes, grief and stress-related growth. Separate regression models were also done for positive religious coping, depression, and meaning as dependent variables to identify mediating effects. Styles of attachment to others as predictors of secure attachment to God were also tested to understand the role of secure attachment to God as a mediator to other variables in the analysis. The second part of the analysis was done after assessing the empirical findings from our mediation analyses. The data from the variables of interest to specify a structural regression model for estimation. Following the results of the multiple regression analyses, competing models were created to evaluate and compare their overall goodness of fit, consistency, empirical adequacy, meaningfulness for interpretation, and explanatory power. Research Hypotheses
Hypotheses were created in order to discover evidence of mediation for the key variables meaning, secure attachment to God, and positive religious coping. The three types of hypotheses made were based on the variables meaning, secure attachment to God, and positive religious coping being a significant predictor that would relate with lower grief and depression and increase stress-related growth, when controlling for all other predictors in the model. Results
Meaning appeared to be an important predictor and, as anticipated, it had a relationship with lower grief and depression. On the other hand, meaning was not a significant predictor for stress-related growth. Secure attachment to God also appeared to be an important predictor and it also had a relationship with lower overall grief and depression and as well as greater stress-related growth. Positive religious coping appeared to have weaker overall effects and unlike the hypotheses it actually had a relationship with higher levels of grief and higher levels of depression. Further, as it was predicted, it had a positive relationship with stress-related growth and was highly significant. Anxious attachment to others was also significant in the overall model and appeared to have relationship with stress-related growth. Avoidant attachment to others had an inverse relationship to meaning and was associated with lower secure attachment to God. The multiple regression analysis, found that secure attachment to God and meaning, were central to the grief process for our sample. For the structural model, they allowed the error variances of depression, grief, and stress-related growth to correlate, because they appear to be highly related outcomes.
They tested four competing models and compared their overall goodness of fit. Because there was a positive association of positive religious coping to grief and depression, the first two models examined the comparative fit between two explanations in the chain of relations. Only the Linkage between positive religious coping and depression were examined since the errors of depression and grief seemed to be correlated. Model 1 had positive religious coping as a mediator predicting depression and stress-related growth. Model 2 reversed the direction of causation of positive religious coping, and was predicted by depression, to test whether depression may have indirect effects on stress-related growth through positive religious coping as a mediator. Model 3 and Model 4 examined the comparative fit of Model 2 with regard to a different ordering of effects between meaning and secure attachment to God. Model 3 was similar to Model 2, but they used meaning antecedent to secure attachment to God. Model 4 was again similar to Model 2, but the error variances of meaning and secure attachment to God were allowed to correlate, making these two variables on par with one another.
Model 2 had better overall goodness-of-fit statistics than the three other models and best represents the chain of relations for the variables. This model suggests that meaning can potentially serve as a mediator for avoidant attachment to others to depression and secure attachment to God to depression. Meaning also facilitates avoidant attachment to others to grief and secure attachment to God to grief. The two variables used, avoidant and anxious appear to have a negative impact on secure attachment to God. Avoidant attachment to others seemed to be related with lower meaning, and anxious attachment to others had a positive relationship with stress-related growth. A secure attachment to God appears not only to be directly related to higher stress-related growth and to lower depression and grief, but also indirectly related through meaning and positive religious coping. Critique
The measurements used in this research were, experiences in close relationships inventory, relationship with God scale, brief religious coping scale, inventory of complicated grief-revised, life attitude profile-revised, center for epidemiological studies depression scale, and stress-related growth scale. The study (Kelley and Chan, 2012) examined with a sound approach the roles of attachment to God, meaning, and religious coping as mediators while experiencing grief. Overall strength and goodness-of-fit statistics were examined using structural equation modeling. The Meaning subscale used, only examines the dimensions of purpose and coherence. I would consider this a poor measurement since these dimensions, in theory, have a strong relation to an attachment to God. It is important to further understand and examine qualitative dimensions of the study, which are measurements that don’t have defined values as the Meaning subscale has.
Furthermore, the styles of attachment to others might help understand a secure attachment to God, but 82% of the variability in secure attachment to God remains unexplained by the anxious and avoidant styles of attachment to others. This could imply that there are other important factors to identify, consider, and take into account in order to understand the complexity of the concept and meaning in the grief process. Results led to greater positive religious coping in grief, but the study should take into account that the process of grief is dynamic and longitudinal, limiting the measurements used. Yet, data collected was cross-sectional and gathered from a small sample. Since data was cross-sectional, it makes it difficult to establish causal inferences. The small sample of 93 makes it limited in generalizability and statistical power. The fairly complex path model for the small sample size makes it difficult to rely on the parameter estimates and the goodness-of-fit statistics. We can say the study is not very reliable since they used self-report measures and the sample was self-selecting. These reports might not adequately measure participants’ unconscious thoughts and feelings and may also have positive bias in responses.
These limitations can impact the empirical adequacy and external validity of the results. The sample also lacked diversity because it was mostly female, Caucasian, and Christian. The study doesn’t exactly relate to the section of Death and Dying in the book. The emotional reactions mentioned in the book might be key for this study and could definitely be the other factors and dimensions that the study is missing. The sample of this study is based on individuals who experienced a significant death in the prior year. The book mentions different stages in grief, meaning the individuals who participated in the sample could have been in different stages and this could be a factor to take into consideration.
It would have been interesting to see if the stages of grief influenced their attachments to God, meaning and religion. It is important to note that the grieving process doesn’t have a set time frame. Therefore, even though the samples used where those who experienced a significant death in the prior year, they could be in a denial stage. If someone is in denial, it’s less likely for them to seek attachment to God, meaning and religion. The possible presence and effects of religious coping from cultural, ethnic, and religious variations perspectives could be another direction that this research could take in the future. Summary and Synthesis
There are is large numbers of people in the United States and in many parts of the world who believe in a God. The findings of this study have important implications for these individuals and for clinical work to gain better understanding of grief and how people can use their beliefs to relate to grief. The results revealed how meaning appeared to have a relationship with lower grief and depression. Secure attachment to God also had a relationship with lower overall grief and depression and as well as greater stress-related growth. Positive religious coping actually had a relationship with higher levels of grief and higher levels of depression and had a positive relationship with stress-related growth. Since depression and grief are important concepts for many these days, it’s important to highlight the central role in this study of a secure attachment to God.
For this sample, a secure style of attachment to God was used as barrier from depression and grief. It also had an indirect effect on these concepts through variables of meaning and positive religious coping. We might be able to say that belief in a benevolent, available, and responsive God may play a critical role when facing of significant loss. Even though we didn’t touch base on stress, depression and coping during this course, chapter 13 in the book has great information on these concepts. The book emphasizes on the value of hope as the most important of all human emotions. Taylor et al (2000, 2003) states that positive believes such as optimism, hope and sense of meaning and controls relates to the overall wellbeing of people. Therefore, we could say this research clarifies that peoples wellbeing strongly relies on their positive believes of a God, meaning and religion. Conclusion
In conclusion, this study has helped me understand how my attachment to God changed my life while grieving and learn that my case is not unique. My mother past away tragically last November and the way I lived the following 8 months of my life are unexplainable. I was really mature about my loss and I strongly believed in finding comfort in God. But the results of my attachment to God have been unbelievable. Those 8 months were complicated, I was more focused on doing well in school spring semester than on my grief. I wasn’t in denial. I had planned to attend my grief through gaining more attachment to God in a Summer Training Project and the results were unexpected. During my Summer Training Project is a summer opportunity where I lived and worked among other college students who seek more attachment to God through Bible studies, evangelistic outreaches, discipleship groups, ministry training, fellowship, and other activities during the week. I was hoping to get some comfort from a greater attachment to God.
I believed in God’s promise to provide us joy, but I never thought he would provide joy within a year of my mother’s loss. By the end of the Summer Training Project, my greater attachment to God had taught me that focusing more on God’s purpose for my life was more important than overcoming my grief. I learned that grief was insignificant in comparison to God’s love, comfort and purpose for my life. Focusing on God’s purpose for my life has definitely changed the meaning I had of life. It has given me a clearer and more reliable understanding than what I had before even though I have lost everything I based my life in. Although this study doesn’t scientifically prove there is a God that can help people deal with grief and depression, this study might be able to give some sort of explanation to my experience. It could also bring another method to consider and bring hope for those who have struggle with grief and depression for years. References
Kelley, M. M., & Chan, K. T. (2012). Assessing the Role of Attachment to God, Meaning, and Religious Coping as Mediators in the Grief Experience. Death Studies, 36(3), 199-227. doi:10.1080/07481187.2011.553317 Link:
Approach: Data collected from the simple of 93 participants. Pg.210 Subjects: 8 Variables (grief, depression, stress-related growth, meaning, positive religious coping, anxious and avoidant attachment to others, and secure attachment to God) Pg.210 Results: Pg.211