Aims: To describe difficulties encountered by older widows in Taiwan and the impact of intrinsic or extrinsic religiosity on their coping strategies during early widowhood. Background: There is very limited information about how Taiwan's widows cope with their bereavement and no studies reporting the relationship between religious beliefs and healthy adjustment during this distressing period. Design: Between-method qualitative and quantitative triangulation was used. Semi-structured interviews were conducted and transcribed data were analysed by critical thematic analysis. Results: Twenty women in Taiwan, >65 years old, (mean = 72·95) were interviewed within three years of being widowed. There were two informant groups: those with intrinsic religious beliefs and those with extrinsic religious beliefs. They all reported intrapersonal and interpersonal problems. Several major coping strategies arose: 'practising positive or negative attitudes for adaptation'; 'using person-focused actions'; and 'taking the initiative or passively seeking help from others or helping others'. Informants with intrinsic religious beliefs reported fewer coping problems by holding positive attitudes and taking multiple actions for adaptation. The extrinsic religious group had more negative adaptation attitudes, such as withdrawal and low self-esteem and practised less faith religious activities in worshipping ancestors, experiencing fatalism and using divination. They reported more coping problems than the intrinsic religious group. Conclusion: Widows in Taiwan have different coping problems and strategies in postbereavement adjustment, affected by their different religious beliefs systems. More research is required to establish the generalisabilty of these findings. Relevance to clinical practice: Widows in Taiwan need to be assessed for their religious belief systems and how this affects their ability to cope during bereavement. Clinicians should actively provide grief support and encourage new methods of social adaptation, especially with widows with extrinsic religious beliefs who may have less self-esteem and negative adaptation behaviours.
ASJC Scopus subject areas