Life with grief

Research project: Livet med sorgen (CBTgrief project)


Here you can find information about the research project:

Life with grief: How well group-based versus individual cognitive behavioral therapy works on complicated grief reactions in elderly bereaved and through what change mechanisms the therapy operates.


The elderly are the age group that most often experiences the loss of a close relative. In Denmark, almost 16,000 elderly people lost their spouse in 2019. Grief is a completely natural reaction to the loss of a loved one. Over time, most bereaved find a way to live life with the grief.

A smaller proportion of bereaved will develop complicated and prolonged grief reactions characterized by more intense and persistent grief symptoms than with natural grief reactions. Complicated grief reactions can manifest as different, and sometimes overlapping, painful mental reactions. It can be mental reactions such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and prolonged grief disorder. Research shows that this particular group of bereaved can benefit from psychological treatment to find a way to live life with grief without it overshadowing everything.

Previous research has shown that cognitive behavioral therapy, also called CBTgrief, is an effective psychological treatment for bereaved people with complicated grief reactions.

However, there is a lack of research in the effect of CBTgrief among the elderly in common clinical practices. There is also a lack of knowledge about whether there is a difference between group-based and individually delivered treatment. In addition, there is a need to know more about the changing mechanisms when bereaved experience the benefit of psychological treatment such as CBTgrief, as well as whether there are certain groups of bereaved who particularly benefit from CBTgrief.

The purpose of the project

In order to become wiser about how we can best help elderly bereaved with complicated grief reactions, the project's purpose is to investigate:

  1. Is there a difference between individual and group-based treatment in the aim of being able to reduce complicated grief reactions and increase general well-being?
  2. Is group-based treatment more cost-effective than individually delivered treatment?
  3. How does therapy lead to change in complicated grief reactions?
  4. Are there specific groups of bereaved where the therapy is most effective?

Who can participate?

You can participate if you:

  • are an elderly bereaved over the age of 65 who have lost a closely related person more than six months ago.
  • experience clinically relevant, reduced functional capacity symptoms of one or more types of complicated grief reactions (prolonged grief disorder, depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder) assessed on the basis of questionnaires.
  • have sufficient knowledge of Danish to be able to benefit from the treatment and fill in questionnaires.
  • have the opportunity to transport themselves to the National Grief Center's clinics in Odense or Copenhagen, where the therapy takes place.

There are certain circumstances that can stand in the way of benefiting from the treatment. Individuals who are 1) poorly cognitively functioning (e.g. suffer from Alzheimer's dementia), 2) suffer from severe psychopathology (e.g. schizophrenia, psychosis, personality disorder), 3) primarily suffer from substance abuse problems or 4) are acutely suicidal, can therefore not participate in the treatment and research project.

Are you interested in participating or know anyone for whom it might be relevant?

- Read more about the treatment offer on Det Nationale Sorgforskningscenter's website:

- Fill in a contact form at: Psykologisk behandling til efterladte voksne +65 år - Det Nationale Sorgcenter 

Where can I read more about the results of the research project?

Participants are currently being recruited until the end of 2022. The project's scientific findings are expected to be published during 2024. When the scientific publications are completed and published, you will be able to find links to the publications here on the Unit for Bereavement Research's website.