The Relationship of Prolonged Grief Disorder Symptoms With Hemodynamic Response to Grief Recall Among Bereaved Adults

Roman Palitsky, Da'Mere T. Wilson, Sydney E. Friedman, John M. Ruiz, Daniel Sullivan, Mary Frances O'connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective Bereavement is among the most impactful psychosocial stressors for cardiovascular health, and hypertensive episodes accompanying bereavement-related distress are one putative mechanism for this effect. The present study examined hemodynamic responses to the Grief Recall (GR), a promising method for studying the effects of acute grief on cardiovascular function, and the relationship of grief severity to blood pressure (BP) response. Methods N = 59 participants within 1 year of the loss of a close loved one completed the GR, a semistructured interview protocol for eliciting bereavement-related distress (a "grief pang") and cardiovascular response. Systolic (SBP) and diastolic BP (DBP) were measured at two time points: a) an attention-control baseline and (2) after a 10-minute GR interview. Baseline versus post-GR SBP and DBP differences (i.e., BP response) were measured. Grief severity was examined as a predictor of SBP and DBP response, as well as BP recovery Results SBP and DBP increased significantly after GR (SBP, +21.10 mm Hg; DBP, +8.10 mm Hg). Adjusting for variables relevant to cardiovascular function and bereavement (antihypertensive medication use, days since death, gender, age), grief severity predicted the magnitude of increase after GR in SBP but not DBP. No relationship of grief severity and recovery was observed. Conclusions The observed association between hemodynamic response and grief severity suggests a mechanistic contribution from hemodynamic effects of acute grief episodes to the cardiovascular impact of grief. This is the first study to show that increased symptoms of prolonged grief disorder are associated with an elevated SBP response. The GR may have further utility for research examining physiological responses to bereavement-related emotions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)545-550
Number of pages6
JournalPsychosomatic medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 1 2023


  • bereavement
  • blood pressure
  • grief
  • prolonged grief disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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