The impact of continuing bonds following bereavement: A systematic review

Helen Hewson, Niall Galbraith, Claire Jones, Gemma Heath

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Following bereavement, continuing bonds (CBs) include engaging with memories, illusions, sensory and quasi-sensory perceptions, hallucinations, communication, actions, and belief that evoke an inner relationship with the deceased. To date, the literature has been unable to confirm whether retaining, rather than relinquishing, bonds is helpful. A mixed studies systematic literature search explored how CBs affect grief. Studies on the effect or experience of CBs on adjustment following bereavement were eligible for inclusion. Six computerized databases were searched. A total of 79 of 319 screened studies were included. Three themes were derived from the thematic analysis: (1) comfort and distress, (2) ongoing bonds and relational identity, and (3) uncertainty, conceptualizing, and spirituality. Themes describe the role of CBs for the accommodation of the death story, transformation of the relationship, meaning reconstruction, identity processes, and affirmation of spiritual belief. Results shed light on the adaptive potentials for CBs.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalDeath Studies
Early online date19 Jun 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2023 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.


  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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