What can help refugees process traumatic grief?

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Evidence Summary
October 2022

There is limited strong evidence on interventions that specifically target traumatic grief.

  • Prolonged and traumatic grief are usually closely associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and therefore many interventions target PTSD with grief symptoms as an auxiliary diagnosis.
  • There appear to be some differences in interventions that target grief as a result of loss of culture or homeland and grief as a result of loss of a loved one, particularly if that loss occurred in a traumatic manner.

Evidence on interventions with refugee populations that target grief is limited.

  • The available evidence is limited to interventions for clinically diagnosed grief disorder. There is a breadth of evidence involving interventions targeting PTSD; however, it is unclear how many of these may target grief as a confounding factor or have been adapted to address grief as the central condition. Additionally, there is no available evidence on whether interventions targeting traumatic grief in the general population would be successful in the refugee context, but it is likely that they would need to undergo cultural adaptations.
  • There is some evidence that interventions with youth or interventions focusing on creative expression in adults are more open to individuals who do not have a diagnosis but rather are experiencing any level of grief.

There is fairly robust information on interventions for refugee youth that target various mental health conditions, including traumatic grief.

  • School-based programs were specifically analyzed. It was found that the school setting can be an effective location for intervention but that school personnel may need specialized support from clinicians to increase effectiveness of programming.
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