The impact of continuing bonds following bereavement::A systematic review


Following bereavement, continuing bonds (CBs) include engaging with memories, illusions, sensory and quasi-sensory perceptions, hallucinations, communication, actions, and belief that evoke an inner relationship with the deceased. To date, the literature has been unable to confirm whether retaining, rather than relinquishing, bonds is helpful. A mixed studies systematic literature search explored how CBs affect grief. Studies on the effect or experience of CBs on adjustment following bereavement were eligible for inclusion. Six computerized databases were searched. A total of 79 of 319 screened studies were included. Three themes were derived from the thematic analysis: (1) comfort and distress, (2) ongoing bonds and relational identity, and (3) uncertainty, conceptualizing, and spirituality. Themes describe the role of CBs for the accommodation of the death story, transformation of the relationship, meaning reconstruction, identity processes, and affirmation of spiritual belief. Results shed light on the adaptive potentials for CBs.

Publication DOI:
Divisions: College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Psychology
College of Health & Life Sciences
College of Health & Life Sciences > Aston Institute of Health & Neurodevelopment (AIHN)
Additional Information: Copyright © 2023 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous),Clinical Psychology,Developmental and Educational Psychology
Publication ISSN: 1091-7683
Last Modified: 28 May 2024 07:27
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2023 07:49
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Related URLs: https://www.tan ... s=true&role=tab (Publisher URL)
http://www.scop ... tnerID=8YFLogxK (Scopus URL)
PURE Output Type: Review article
Published Date: 2023-06-19
Published Online Date: 2023-06-19
Accepted Date: 2023-06-07
Authors: Hewson, Helen
Galbraith, Niall
Jones, Claire
Heath, Gemma (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-1569-5576)



Version: Published Version

License: Creative Commons Attribution

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