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Mindful and Self-Compassionate Journey through Grief

Funding Source

Sandra and Arnold Gold Humanism Research Fund

Project Period

2/1/2020 - 7/31/2021

Principal Investigator

Zev Schuman-Olivier, MD (CHA Center for Mindfulness and Compassion)

Other Project Staff

Richa Gawande, PhD, Grace Janzow, BA

Project Summary

Mindful and Self-Compassionate Journey through Grief is a project established to address the needs of family members and friends who have lost loved ones to addiction-related deaths, including overdose or suicide. This novel participatory, person-centered, humanistic curriculum development project aims to support grieving families by identifying their needs. This will be accomplished by assessing the impact of mindfulness and self-compassion coping skills during bereavement and considering the ways these skills may be made accessible through mobile technology as people process emotions around the death of a loved one. Phases I and II of this project include developing and refining this tailored curriculum. We plan to conduct a community workshop for families, and plan to host several focus groups. We also plan to conduct a survey to characterize mental health status, attitudes towards mindfulness, and openness to technology. Data collected during these initial phases will be used to further develop an online support community which offers mindfulness and self-compassion education tailored to this grieving population (Phase III).

Public Health Relevance

Opioid overdose is a current public health crisis in the United States and around the world. In recent years, a rapid increase in rates of addiction-related deaths from suicide have also been reported. When a person dies from addiction, the impact can be devastating to those who loved the individual during their life. Because of the stigmas of overdose and addiction-related deaths in our culture, those family and friends left behind often feel sadness, shame and guilt, which can lead to depression that prevents them from seeking help or support concerning their loss. Even in regions of the country where in-person support groups exist, few people know how to access them, and even fewer can overcome the overwhelming barriers of remorse and grief to engage within a healing community. This intervention connecting grieving individuals to an online support network, coupled with education focusing on coping practices that have been shown to reduce depression and shame by emphasizing mindfulness and self-compassion, will help grieving families better cope in their journey towards healing.