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New Study: Stepping Forward in Grief

Study Description

Approximately sixteen thousand active duty service members died between 2001 and 2011 leaving thousands of bereaved family members. Both the loss of a young adult and bereavement by violent death are risk factors for negative physical and psychological consequences and development of grief complications.

Existing studies show that violent death of young adults common to military duty-related deaths often result in high intensity and long duration of grief. Preliminary findings from the on-going and seminal National Military Family Bereavement Study show that a large portion of participating bereaved military family members describe continued grief-related challenges, often years after the death of their loved ones.

The Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) and Columbia University have been awarded a collaborative $3 million four-year grant by the Department of Defense Congressionally-Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) to support the development and testing of an innovative, mobile and web application designed to help military families who have experienced the death of a servicemember to better manage their grief reactions. This online program will be pilot-tested with content experts, community partners, and end users, and then be studied in a randomized controlled trial to test its effectiveness. 

Principal Investigators

Stephen J. Cozza, MD (Professor of Psychiatry at USU), M. Katherine Shear, MD (Marion E. Kenworthy Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia School of Social Work and Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons) are Principal Investigator and Co-Principal Investigator. Their teams will work together on this first-ever scientific study of a preventive intervention to support the health and well-being of bereaved military family members.

Dr. Shear’s Complicated Grief Therapy (CGT) is an evidence-based grief intervention. The treatment is based on an attachment-theory model that emphasizes the importance of understanding love relationships and what is entailed in their loss. The USU and Columbia teams will be collaboratively adapting the evidence-based civilian CGT for use in the military family population. It will be delivered as a self-guided, supported, mobile application which aims to reduce suffering, build resilience, and make a significant difference in the lives of a geographically-dispersed community of military family survivors.

Science Teams

Uniformed Services University/Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress: Dr. Stephen Cozza, Dr. Joscelyn Fisher, Dr. Carol Fullerton, and Dr. Robert Ursano. 

Columbia University/Center for Complicated Grief: Dr. Kathy Shear, Dr. Natalia Skritskaya, Dr. Christine Mauro, Dr. Bonnie Gorscak, and Ms. Colleen Gribbin