Faith in the Wake of Homicide: Religious Coping and Bereavement Distress in an African American Sample


Mourners often rely on faith following loss, but not all find spirituality comforting. Some grievers engage in negative religious coping (NRC), signaled by behaviors and thoughts such as anger toward God or their faith community, feeling spiritually abandoned, or questioning God's power. Our longitudinal study of 46 African American homicide survivors explored the relation of both positive religious coping (PRC) and NRC to complicated grief (CG) and investigated whether religious coping more strongly predicted psychological distress or vice versa. Results indicated that NRC was associated with CG, whereas PRC was substantially unrelated to bereavement outcome. Significantly, CG prospectively predicted high levels of spiritual struggle 6 months later, both in terms of CG and NRC composite scores and at the individual-item level. Clinical implications regarding spiritually sensitive interventions are noted. © 2011 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

Publication Title

International Journal for the Psychology of Religion