Loss of a Partner and Resilience Factors

It should be noted that research on bereavement reveals that the human response to the death of a loved one can be a complex and varying process. Indeed, culture, religion and interpersonal context can influence how people experience their grief (Bee, 2000; Papalia et al., 2002; Stretch, 2013). The contribution of the biopsychosocial factors is also apparent when the bereaved person demonstrates a reaction shaped by their temperament, their past and their present environment (Wheeler-Roy & Amyot, 2004, ; Stretch, 2013). Mourning is a varying process since it is regulated by one’s unique personality and coping mechanisms (Bee, 2000,; Stretch, 2013). In addition, the factors facilitating the response of mourning also depend on access to social support, family dynamics, cognitive capacity and the gender of the individual (Lewis & Trzinski, 2006; Stretch, 2013). Moreover, Fry (2001) states that spirituality, religion and the creation of personal meaning can affect the way of mourning since they are factors favourable to the well-being of widow(er)s after the loss of their spouse (Osterweis et al., 1984). All these elements cited represent an amalgamation of risk and protective factors, which we will discuss in detail below, starting with the risk factors and ending with the presentation of the posttraumatic growth.

Risk Factor: The Environment

The environment can be a risk and/or a protective factor depending on the nature of its influence during a person’s adjustment to their loss (Kumpfer, 1991; Alemayehu, 2014). However, studies often highlight the environment as one of the most predominant of the risk factors in terms of its influence on a person’s adaptation to adversity. Risk factors are harmful and increase the chances of people developing a disease or health disorder (Pierorazio, 2009; Alemayehu, 2014).

Theorists have studied the influences and interactions of individuals with their environment to better understand the risk factors involved (Alemayehu, 2014). These factors are an aspect of personal behaviour or lifestyle, exposure to an environment, or an innate characteristic known to be associated with health-related conditions (Stroebe & Stroebe, 1987). They can be general factors or specific to grief. Risk factors specific to bereavement are situational aspects. These influence the impact that this challenging event (death) will have on widow(er)s and affect their rehabilitation. An example of this can be a sudden and unexpected loss, which may greatly jeopardize the health of the survivor (Stroebe & Stroebe, 1987). General risk factors are the personality or the social context’s variables, which have an impact on the widow’s health. They can be divided into categories that are not moderators of the effects of bereavement or factors having effects specific to bereavement. As such, socioeconomic status is a good example since it is positively associated with the health of the mourners but does not moderate the effects of bereavement (Stroebe & Stroebe, 1987).

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