Objective: The study aimed to explore the content and features of loss-related memories in a sample of individuals bereaved by cancer with and without a probable diagnosis of prolonged grief disorder/persistent complex bereavement disorder (PGD/PCBD). Methods: Semi-structured interviews with 28 bereaved adults (PGD/PCBD = 12, NoPGD/PCBD = 16) were analysed using thematic analysis. Results: Three superordinate themes were identified: (1) intrusive imagery, (2) qualities of memory, and (3) triggers. Results showed that individuals suffering from probable PGD/PCBD reported a predominance of negative and upsetting memories, happy memories triggering pain and more negative intrusive imagery than those without PGD/PCBD. Conclusions: Bereavement by cancer can result in troubling intrusive memories that overshadow positive memories. Sufferers of PGD/PCBD are more likely to experience loss-related memories as negative and upsetting. Clinical approaches that utilise memory processing may be of particular relevance in this group.
Eur J Psychotraumatol
• We detail the content, qualities, and triggers of loss-related memories in people bereaved by cancer. • Results suggest that individuals suffering from PGD/PCBD experience more upsetting loss-related memories that are predominantly negative in nature. • Nearly all participants reported experiencing intrusive loss-related imagery suggesting that clinical approaches that include memory processing may be particularly relevant for individuals bereaved by cancer.