This longitudinal study aims to explain loneliness in newly bereaved older
adults, taking into account personal and circumstantial conditions surrounding
the partner's death. A distinction is made between emotional and
social loneliness. Data were gathered both before and after partner loss.
Results were interpreted within the framework of the Theory of Mental
Incongruity. The findings reveal that being unable to anticipate the partner's
death is related to higher levels of emotional loneliness. Standards of
instrumental support, measured indirectly by poor physical condition, lead to
stronger emotional as well as social loneliness. Standards measured directly by
importance attached to support or contacts result in higher emotional
loneliness but, unexpectedly, in lower social loneliness. Furthermore,
difficulties with establishing personal contacts, caused, for instance, by social
anxiety, add to loneliness. It is concluded that circumstances related to the
partner's illness may contribute to emotional loneliness after bereavement.
Moreover, the results highlight the importance of taking coping attitudes into
consideration for a better understanding of how newly bereaved older adults
adapt to the loss of a partner.