Coping flexibility, forward focus and trauma focus in older widows and widowers

Lindsey M. Knowles, Mary Frances O’Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Abstract: Coping strategies play a significant role in overall adjustment to bereavement, and recent emphasis has been placed on flexibility in coping versus unilateral strategies that are seemingly beneficial or maladaptive. The Dual Process Model of coping informed the conceptualisation of coping flexibility as the oscillation between ‘trauma focus’ and ‘forward focus’ coping strategies. The primary aim of the present study was to assess whether trauma focus and forward focus coping strategies, and using strategies from both flexibly, would predict grief severity. Trauma focus and forward focus were assessed using the Perceived Ability to Cope with Trauma (PACT) scale, measured cross-sectionally in older widows and widowers. In addition, we modeled symptoms of loneliness, yearning and perceived stress from PACT scale scores. Results showed that greater forward focus and coping flexibility predicted lower grief severity, and also predicted lower yearning, loneliness, and perceived stress. Additionally, length of time that participants were bereaved moderated the relationships of forward focus coping and coping flexibility to grief symptoms, such that having greater forward focused coping and coping flexibility matter the most early in bereavement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-23
Number of pages7
JournalBereavement Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2015


  • aging
  • bereavement
  • complicated grief
  • coping
  • grief
  • widow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Gerontology
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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