Older African-Americans Needed for Research On Faith and Grief The Associated Press

University of Alabama student, Danielle McDuffie is seeking to determine if having a faith connection helps prevent people in mourning from falling into depression.

University of Alabama student, Danielle McDuffie, is calling on volunteers for a study she is carrying out on the ability of faith to help those who are grieving from falling into depression. She is particularly interested in honing on the middle-aged/senior African-American population, because although there are a plethora of studies on the ability of religion to help cope with mourning and other big stressors, few are focused on middle aged African-American adults.

“I believe it’s a touchy topic in terms of psychology because with a lot of psychologists it’s hard to broach the line between science and religion,” said McDuffie, who notes that it has been hard to find people willing to take part in her study.

What do We Currently Know about How African-Americans Face Grief?

A 2008 study carried out by A Lauria and Robert Neimeyer was one of the few to focus on how the grieving process affects different ethnic groups, with a specific focus on African American experiences of identity change, interpersonal effects of loss, and continuing attachment to the deceased. The study involved close to 1,600 bereaved college students. Results showed that African Americans experienced a larger number of losses owing to homicide, and maintenance of a stronger continued bond with a deceased loved one. They also felt deeper grief for loss of kin beyond the immediate family, and a greater sense of support, despite a lesser tendency to speak about their loss or turn to therapy to ease the grieving process.

African Americans Reported Greater Complicated Grief

The above study found that African Americans experience a greater degree of complicated grief. The latter can interfere with their quality of life profoundly, because it essentially keeps a person in a chronic, heightened state of mourning. Symptoms can include extreme focus on the lost loved one, depression, numbness or detachment, and developing a lack of trust in others. Some therapies that can help people escape from the eternal grief cycle include cognitive behavioral therapy, which can help change irrational thoughts to rational ones and help people find meaning from even the greatest losses.

It is important for those who may be of help to contact Danielle McDuffy for her study. Thus far, we know that faith and religion play an important role in improving mood, building meaning, and providing much needed support during difficult times in life. However, these studies have not focused on the African American community. With studies showing that the intensity and effect of grief vary according to ethnicity, it is important to do our share to obtain the necessary awareness about the ability of faith to help with complicated grief.

For further information, email dmcduffie1@crimson.ua.edu.