Meaning Reconstruction in Later Life: Toward a Cognitive-Constructivist Approach to Grief Therapy

  • Robert A. Neimeyer
  • Jason M. Holland
  • Joseph M. Currier
  • Tara Mehta

Some 18 months after her husband’s death, Martha, aged 63, describes herself as “drowning in a sea of grief.” Far from moving toward some form of recovery, she experiences herself as “stuck” in a futile protest against the impossibility of living without John, who had been the “compass” for her life for the past two decades. Without the special caring, attunement, and structure he provided her, Martha feels “disoriented,” “unreal,” as if his death is “just some sort of terrible joke” on the part of a malicious God. John’s fast demise from an aggressive cancer gave her little time to adapt to the harsh reality of his impending loss, but Martha confesses that she spent the majority of this “warning period” actively resisting the knowledge of his eventual death, just as she continues to resist the full emotional implications of his absence. Now, she feels deeply lonely and “cut-off” from others, with the exception of her concerned adult son and daughter, and is caught up in an angry “fight” with John’s children by a previous marriage about the estate. Because the dispute arose partly from critical ambiguities in his will, Martha confesses that she also feels betrayed by John, and wonders whether his apparent love for her was really “a lie.” She therefore feels as if his death not only deprived her of a hoped-for future with John in retirement, but also eroded a cherished view of their past. Tearfully, she describes how she has “no purpose for living” since John’s death, and as her health has begun to suffer as a result of the stress of the loss, she finds herself wishing that it were she, rather than he, who had died.


American Psychological Association Posttraumatic Growth Violent Death Complicated Grief Prolonged Grief Disorder 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert A. Neimeyer
    • 1
  • Jason M. Holland
    • 1
  • Joseph M. Currier
    • 1
  • Tara Mehta
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MemphisMemphisUSA

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