The Man I Once Knew: Grief and Inflammation in Female Partners of Veterans With Traumatic Brain Injury

Karen L. Saban, Herbert L. Mathews, Eileen G. Collins, Nancy S. Hogan, Dina Tell, Fred B. Bryant, Theresa Louise Bender Pape, Joan M. Griffin, Linda Witek Janusek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Grief, although traditionally conceptualized as a bereavement-related reaction, is also experienced by significant others in response to the profound cognitive and personality changes associated with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a loved one. Grief associated with the death of a loved one is related to increases in proinflammatory cytokines, yet it is not clear whether this is the case for grief experienced by individuals caring for a significant other with TBI. The purpose of this cross-sectional, exploratory study was to examine grief and its association with a proinflammatory cytokine, tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α), in wives/partners caring for veterans with TBI. Participants completed written measures of grief, perceived stress, and depressive symptoms and provided morning saliva samples for TNF-α analysis. Participants reported levels of grief comparable to those reported in studies evaluating individuals grieving the death of a loved one. Path analysis revealed that grief was not associated with TNF-α; however, participants reporting high levels of blame/anger, a subscale of the grief scale, had higher levels of TNF-α. In addition, both grief and blame/anger were related to increased perceived stress and depressive symptoms; however, path analysis demonstrated that perceived stress and depressive symptoms did not mediate the influence of blame/anger on TNF-α. These findings suggest that blame/anger associated with grief may be related to the elevations in TNF-α exhibited by individuals caring for a loved one with TBI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)50-59
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Research for Nursing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • TNF-α
  • anger
  • blame
  • brain injury
  • caregivers
  • cytokines
  • grief

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Research and Theory


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