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Grief travels different paths

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1:12pm, September 3, 2002

A rare study of elderly individuals before and after the death of their spouses finds that a surprisingly large number stayed on an even emotional keel. The rest displayed more troubled responses.

Using interviews and questionnaires, a team led by George A. Bonanno of Columbia University and Camille B. Wortman of the State University of New York at Stony Brook studied 205 men and women around 3 years before their spouses' deaths and 6 months and 18 months after. Participants averaged 69 years old at the study's start.

Nearly half of the surviving spouses exhibited the same emotional stability during the bereavement period as they had beforehand, qualifying them as "resilient" to grief, Bonanno and Wortman reported at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, held in August in Chicago.

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