Impact of Attachment on Bereavement: Implications In Clinical Practice And the Development of an Integrated Somatic-Attachment Bereavement Therapy Model
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Attachment theory informs bereavement on multiple levels. How the bereaved respond to loss can be predicted by their early attachment relationships. The death of an attachment figure is a unique and highly stressful event. Attachment relationships are psychobiological, bodily based, and constructed as interpersonal stress regulatory systems that assist in physiological and behavioral regulation. This interpersonal regulatory system is lost when a loved one dies triggering biological changes as expressions of the psychological response to the intense emotional states induced by disruption of the attachment bond. The death of a loved one activates the stress response system lowering the threshold for perception of danger and increasing the intensity of the stress response upon confrontation with threat. The bereaved are therefore living in a state of chronic stress and nervous system dysregulation which may be considered analogous to being stuck in trauma. The trauma energy of trapped grief within the body and its precipitating physiological symptoms suggest the importance of working with the body in bereavement therapy. Current bereavement therapy models focus primarily on cognitive behavioral, solution focused, and narrative strategies. It is hoped that this research will help to move bereavement therapy to a new level by inviting both attachment theory and the wisdom of ‘the body in grief’ into bereavement therapy practices. The following research questions are addressed to provide an underpinning for a proposed Integrated Somatic-Attachment Bereavement Therapy Model: What are the processes involved in grief resolution? What is the interplay between trauma and bereavement? How does bereavement impact the body? How does attachment theory inform bereavement and ‘the body in grief’? How does attachment theory inform the therapeutic relationship when working with bereaved clients? Why is it important for the body to have a ‘voice’ in bereavement therapy? How might attachment theory be integrated into bereavement therapy? How can a body-based therapy be integrated into bereavement therapy? Limitations of this study and future research directions are presented.