Existential isolation and prolonged grief in bereaved people: The moderating role of culture.
Zhou N., Zhao Y., Smith KV., Killikelly C., Stelzer E., Maercker A., Xi J., Helm PJ.
OBJECTIVE: Existential isolation refers to an individual's awareness of the unbridgeable gulf between oneself, other people, and the world. This kind of isolation has been found to be higher in individuals with nonnormative experiences, such as racial or sexual minorities. Bereaved individuals may experience a stronger sense of existential isolation and feel that no one shares their feelings or perceptions. However, research on bereaved people's experiences of existential isolation and its effects on post-loss adaptation is scarce. This study aims to validate the German and Chinese versions of the Existential Isolation Scale, investigate cultural and gender differences in existential isolation, and explore the associations between existential isolation and prolonged grief symptoms in German-speaking and Chinese bereaved individuals. METHODS: A cross-sectional study with 267 Chinese and 158 German-speaking bereaved participants was conducted. The participants completed self-report questionnaires assessing existential isolation, prolonged grief symptoms, social networks, loneliness, and social acknowledgment. RESULTS: The results indicated that the German and Chinese versions of the Existential Isolation Scale demonstrated adequate validity and reliability. No cultural or gender differences (or their interaction) were found for existential isolation. Higher existential isolation was associated with elevated prolonged grief symptoms, which was further moderated by the cultural group. The relationship between existential isolation and prolonged grief symptoms was significant for the German-speaking bereaved people but not significant for those from China. CONCLUSION: The findings highlight the role of existential isolation in the adaptation to bereavement and how different cultural backgrounds moderate the effect of existential isolation on post-loss reactions. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.