By Betsy Lievense, Ivanhoe Health Correspondent

ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Losing a loved one can be a painful experience, and the healing process may be long and arduous.

A recent study reveals cognitive behavioral grief counseling programs for first-degree relatives of suicide victims won't take away depression, but they could prevent feelings of blame among close relatives and spouses.

Researchers in the Netherlands surveyed 122 first-degree relatives of 70 people who committed suicide between 1999 and 2002 to assess the effectiveness of counseling programs for people with complicated grief. Fifteen percent of bereaved people develop this disorder, and symptoms include purposelessness, detachment, disbelief, yearning and bitterness following the death of a loved one.

Although cognitive behavioral grief counseling had no effect on symptoms of complicated grief, depression, or suicidal ideation, researchers report the 68 participants who underwent this form of counseling felt less responsible for their loved one's suicide than those who did not receive this type of counseling. Study authors also noted fewer maladaptive grief reactions in the cognitive behavioral counseling group.

"Kinship relationship is very significantly related to the level of a person's grief, and parents are almost always the most severely affected," Holly G. Prigerson, Ph.D., an associate research professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston, told Ivanhoe.

Based on their findings, researchers suggest it may be helpful for grief counselors to discuss the psychiatric context in which the suicide occurred with close relatives and spouses of the deceased. This may help families understand it was the victim's personal difficulties that drove them to suicide -- not something the family did wrong.