Grief and the Search for Meaning: The Role of Merged Identity and Identity Disruption

Melissa Badia, Pace University


The death of a loved one may have a profound effect on one’s sense of self and purpose in life. This loss may impact one’s identity and challenge previous goals and aspirations. The Cognitive Attachment Model attempts to understand grief by integrating core factors from the self-memory model, narrative approaches, and attachment theory (Conway & Pleydell-Pearce, 2001). According to this model, modification and adjustment of merged identity to incorporate the loss and, therefore, establish new goals, life roles, and attachments is integral to managing bereavement (Maccallum & Bryant, 2013). The purpose of the proposed research is to examine the role of merged identity as defined by the Cognitive Attachment Model (merged vs. independent) on the development of grief symptoms. Specifically, this study examines (1) if a merged identity might be an important factor in predicting the experience of grief, (2) whether those with merged identity have more identity disruption after a loss, (3) how merged identity impacts an individual’s ability to integrate a loss, and (4) whether the relationship between merged identity and grief is mediated by meaning integration and identity disruption, sequentially. Results supported the hypotheses that merged identity can provide independent predictive value for grief above attachment style. This study also supported the argument that individuals with a more merged identity have both more difficulty integrating the loss into their meaning system and a more disrupted identity after the death of a loved one. Finally, there was support for a sequential mediational hypothesis where a chain reaction from merged identity, to poor integration, to disrupted identity, predicted more grief severity.

Subject Area

Counseling Psychology|Psychology|Mental health

Recommended Citation

Badia, Melissa, "Grief and the Search for Meaning: The Role of Merged Identity and Identity Disruption" (2019). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI22589760.



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