Is it acceptable and feasible to measure prolonged grief disorder symptoms in daily life using experience sampling methodology?

L I M Lenferink, J H W van Eersel, M Franzen

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INTRODUCTION: Current grief research is dominated by cross-sectional studies assessing prolonged grief disorder (PGD) symptoms retrospectively. Examining grief in daily life, using Experience Sampling Methodology (ESM), may advance the field. Because of the lack of ESM-research on PGD, we evaluated the acceptability and feasibility of assessing PGD symptoms in daily life of bereaved people.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: ESM-items assessing PGD symptoms were developed using cognitive interviewing with five ESM/grief experts. Eighty bereaved adults completed these ESM-items five times a day for two weeks. Before and after this ESM-phase, interviews were administered assessing PGD retrospectively (using the Traumatic Grief Inventory-Clinical Administered). t-tests were performed comparing symptom severity of aggregated moment-to-moment recall (using ESM-items) with retrospective recall (based on interviews) of PGD symptoms. Acceptability of participating in ESM-research (assessed with the Reactions to Research Participation Questionnaire) was examined using descriptive statistics. Feasibility was evaluated by reporting compliance and retention rates.

RESULTS: Minor changes were made to the ESM-items based on expert interviews. Average levels of aggregated moment-to-moment recall of the symptoms "yearning" (d = -1.04), "preoccupation with the deceased" (d = -0.91), "marked sense of disbelief" (d = -0.43), and "intense loneliness" (d = -0.28) were lower compared with retrospective recalling these symptoms. On average, bereaved people were neutral about personal benefits gained through participation in this EMS-study. They indicated that participation did not raise emotional reactions. Compliance and retention rates were 60% and 65%, respectively.

DISCUSSION: Our findings indicate that whereas compliance and retention is challenging, using ESM to study PGD symptoms in daily life might be useful. Nevertheless, more research is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number152351
JournalComprehensive Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This publication is part of the project ‘Toward personalized bereavement care: Examining individual differences in response to grief treatment’ [ID: Vl.Veni.211G.065] of the research programme [NWO Talent Programme 2021 - Veni] which is financed by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) and awarded to Lonneke I.M. Lenferink.

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© 2022

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