Bereavement-related regret trajectories among widowed older adults

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Objectives. Although regrets and unfinished business with a deceased spouse are frequently discussed as crucial determinants of one’s postloss adjustment, there have been few empirical investigations of bereavement-related regrets. This present study aimed to investigate the longitudinal course of these regrets and their correlates among widowed older adults.

Methods. Drawing upon information from 201 widowed older adults in the Changing Lives of Older Couples study, this present study used latent class growth analysis to identify unique longitudinal trajectories of regret from 6 to 48 months postloss and examine differences between these trajectories with regard to grief and depressive symptomatology.

Results. Three distinct bereavement-related regret trajectories were identified, characterized by Stable Low Regret, Stable High Regret, and Worsening High Regret. Results revealed that those in the Worsening High Regret group, whose bereavement-related regrets were exacerbated during the study, had the poorest grief outcomes. No differences were observed between these groups with regard to depressive symptoms, indicating that regret may be a unique marker of difficulties in the grieving process.

Discussion. These findings highlight the importance of periodically reassessing bereavement-related regrets (and perhaps other aspects of the continued relationship with the deceased) over time and support the rationale behind interventions designed to facilitate resolution of these issues.


Continuing bonds; Death and dying; Marital quality; Regret; Unfinished business.


Mental and Social Health | Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy


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