Center for Complicated Grief Joins Forces with Military to Help Bereaved Families

October 18, 2018 @ 3:55 pm

The School of Social Work’s Center for Complicated Grief (CCG), under the direction of M. Katherine Shear, MD, is collaborating with the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) on Stepping Forward in Grief, a study of two innovative digital programs focused on helping bereaved military families cope with loss.

USU’s recent National Military Family Bereavement Study, the first large scientific study on the impact of U.S. service member death on surviving family members, suggests that many of them are experiencing high levels of grief and may benefit from programs that recognize their experience, provide information about ways to cope, and offer access to a program “guide” who is available to answer questions and share observations.

The digital programs, which have been two years in development, are GriefSteps and WellnessSteps. GriefSteps, based on a model of grief therapy that has been used successfully for people with complicated grief, is designed to foster restoration processes associated with successful adaptation to loss. WellnessSteps offers information and activities that foster general health, wellness, and stress management.

The study is currently seeking participants who have experienced the loss of an immediate family member who was an active duty service member.

Says Dr. Shear of CCG, a co-principal investigator on the study, “Loss and grief are universally recognized as highly challenging life experiences. Most people find a way to adapt to even the most difficult losses when they are provided sufficient support. In studying how to help bereaved people who have not found a way forward, we came to understand the kinds of information and activities that can help. We are honored to have the opportunity to share these digital programs with bereaved military families and look forward to working with participants who join our study.”

Retired Army Col. (Dr.) Stephen J. Cozza, co-principal investigator on the study, states, “Equipping military families with resources that address the unique circumstance of their loss is an important part of honoring their service and sacrifice.” Dr. Cozza is a professor of Psychiatry at USU and associate director of USU’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress.

USU is considered the academic heart of the U.S. Military Health System. USU students are primarily active-duty uniformed officers in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Public Health Service who receive specialized education in issues such as PTSD, disaster response, and trauma care. The university’s research program covers a wide range of clinical and basic science important to both the military and public health.