Lorenza Entilli

Neuroscience, Technology, and Society, XXXIV series
Grant sponsor

Sabrina Cipolletta
Ombretta Gaggi


Project: Bereavement after a traumatic loss: Experiences, needs and practical applications of online support
Full text of the dissertation book can be downloaded from: https://www.research.unipd.it/handle/11577/3458738

Abstract: The way of providing psychological support is changing, fast approaching the advantages provided by digitalization, particularly in light of the recent global upheavals. Also bereavement support is dealing with the implementation of different ways of reaching grieving people, and mental health professionals must investigate the possibilities offered by telematic tools, as well as the limits that online communication entails, especially for this specific population. The aim of the present study is to identify the practical implications, strengths, and limitations of the use of online bereavement support tools. In order to accomplish this aim, three studies were conducted and two specific bereavement experiences have been investigated: suicide losses and COVID-19 losses. Study 1 explored cross-sectionally the psychological state and perceived social support of Italian suicide survivors, and investigated differences in gender, kinship, help-seeking behavior, employing a rule-based system (RBS) analysis, an inference engine system able to identify implications among a set of variables. One-hundred and thirty-two (103 females and 29 males) suicide survivors answered an anonymous online survey. RBS analysis identified different help-seeking behaviors: survivors experiencing low level of social support may avoid going to a psychologist and resolve to GPs, look for advice in online forums and rely on people out of their narrower informal network such as coworkers. These unique study’s results offer insight to identify which specific areas would be fruitful to investigate while assessing social support in bereaved individuals. In Study 2, a thematic qualitative analysis was carried out on 30 live-chat transcripts of conversations between anonymous suicide survivors and a trained operator from a major Italian association providing online bereavement support. Five themes were identified to understand live-chat users’ experience with the service and their specific needs: meaning-making, reactions to the loss, resources, needs, and interactions with the operator. Suicide survivors showed to use the live-chat as a safe space in which to disclose nonsocially desirable details (included suicidal ideation) and to make sense of suicide through the reconstruction of events and the deceased's motivations. Study 3 explored qualitatively the bereavement experiences of twenty-five (23 females and 2 males) Italian family members who have lost a significant other to COVID-19 writing on a dedicated online support group. Thematic analysis of the posts showed five themes: group’s uses to respond to needs, shared crisis narrative, responses to grief, retelling narrative of death, and the context of the mourning process. Users were aware of the existence of the research and were also directly asked what they found particularly useful about the group. Participants used the group not only for memorialization purposes but also to share their loss experience and to find a community of other grievers equally shocked by the apparent unjustness of the death of their loved ones. The findings of this research might provide useful avenues for future research in order to fully capture the experience and consequences of Italian mourners’ uses of online tools.