International Journal of Existential Positive Psychology

Pandemic Grief and the Crisis of Meaning: Spanning Research and Practice

Robert A. Neimeyer, Ph.D.

Portland Institute for Loss and Transition


With global loss of life to COVID-19 leaving in excess of 50 million mourners, clinical and research attention has shifted from the widespread anxiety and depression that characterized earlier phases of the pandemic to abiding concern with the psychosocial aftermath of bereavement by the disease. This article reviews a substantial program of clinical research involving the development, validation, and use of the Pandemic Grief Scale or PGS: a brief screener that documents clinically significant levels of dysfunctional grief in the current era, and its strong association with worrisome levels of impairment in family, social, and workplace functioning. Numerous studies converge on the conclusion that the attendant grief is alarming, persistent, incapacitating, and linked to an identified set of pandemic grief risk factors. Of particular interest in the present context, studies also demonstrate that the various deleterious outcomes of bereavement in the pandemic era are mediated by the inability of survivors to find meaning in their loss and in their lives in its aftermath. Implications of these findings for clinical and counseling interventions are noted and illustrated in a brief case study.

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