Physician Patient

DREAM

Developing Resilience to Ease Anguish in Mourning

Mature adult hands set in second set of hands

The goal of our transdisciplinary program is to:

  1. Determine psychosocial and neurobiological factors (or biological markers) that can complicate acute grief following the loss of a loved one
  2. Advance our neurobiological understanding of prolonged grief disorder and bereavement-related depression
  3. Identify interventions that may prevent the development of grief-related complications
  4. Identify treatments that can improve health outcomes in those who experience prolonged grief disorder and bereavement-related depression
  5. Share with the community resources and information regarding bereavement and its consequences
  6. Build academic-community partnerships in Wisconsin and beyond to improve care for the bereaved
  7. Educate and train both health professionals and lay public on (a) acute and integrated grief; (b) diagnosing and treating prolonged grief disorder and other grief-related complications; and (c) strategies to prevent grief-related complications.

Program Director's Message | Joseph S. Goveas, MD

Welcome to the MCW DREAM Program

Experiencing the death of a loved one is inevitable, and grief is a natural response. Most acutely grieving adults are resilient and recover their pre-loss functioning within a year. However, a significant minority develop complications such as prolonged grief disorder (or complicated grief) and bereavement-related depression. The development of these complications is especially high following the death of a life partner or a child. The public health consequences of prolonged grief disorder and bereavement-related depression are enormous, and include declines in physical health and cognition, poor quality of life, functional impairment, premature mortality, and an increased risk of suicide.

Despite the magnitude of this problem, we cannot distinguish those grieving individuals who are resilient and will successfully transition to integrated grief from those who are prone to develop prolonged grief disorder or bereavement-related depression. Thus, it is not known who among the grieving individuals warrants early intervention, what treatments are most effective, and when to initiate treatment.

DREAM is a transdisciplinary program that examines factors that can complicate acute grief following the loss of a loved one, with the goal of identifying interventions that prevent grief-related complications. We also aim to identify treatments that can improve long-term health outcomes in those experiencing prolonged grief disorder and bereavement-related depression.

View Joseph S. Goveas Bio

Meet our team

Joseph S. Goveas, MD

Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine
Professor, Institute for Health and Equity
Director, Geriatric Psychiatry
jgoveas@mcw.edu | (414) 955-8970

Current Research Studies

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Emotion Regulation in Complicated Grief

Sponsor: The National Institute of Mental Health
Principal Investigator: Joseph S. Goveas, MD

This novel study is expected to provide evidence that specific abnormalities in the emotion regulation brain circuitry that are associated with complicated grief symptom trajectories in individuals with acute grief. These brain circuit abnormalities could, in the future, serve as neurobiological indicators (or markers) of prolonged grief disorder (or complicated grief). Such biological markers could also be used to test the efficacies of treatment or prevention strategies that aim to prevent the development of prolonged grief disorder in acutely grieving individuals.

Learn more about this research study (PDF)

Eligibility

  • Individuals within 12 months following the death of a loved one
  • Also, healthy nonbereaved adults
  • You must be age 50 and older
  • You must be able to undergo an MRI

What will happen if I take part in the study?

  • You will be in this research project for about 18 months.
  • You will complete multiple visits during the course of your study participation.
  • You will receive clinical evaluations, physical/neurological examinations, cognitive (memory) testing, MRI brain scans, optional blood draws, and will complete questionnaires.

Benefits of participating

  • You will be contributing to our knowledge of how changes in the brain in grieving individuals may lead to the development of prolonged grief disorder.
  • The brain imaging measurements (biomarkers) may in the future help us identify treatment strategies that prevent the development of prolonged grief disorder in grieving individuals.

Interested in becoming a Participant?

Contact Stacy Claesges, Research Coordinator, to become a participant or with questions.
sclaesge@mcw.edu | (414) 955-8970

Take this survey and find out if you qualify

Endocannabinoid System and Brain Network Function in Late-Life Depression

Sponsor: The National Institute of Mental Health
Principal Investigators: Joseph S. Goveas, MD; Cecilia J. Hillard, PhD

The major goals of this project are to determine components of the endocannabinoid signaling system (ECS) and brain network features associated with Late-life Depression (LLD) occurrence, and with persistent low mood and anhedonia, two core symptom dimensions of LLD. This NIH-funded study will set the stage for future seminal research that uses ECS and brain network function measures as biomarkers to aid diagnosis, predict and monitor outcomes to specific treatment interventions, and guide selection of optimal treatment for individual patients before initiation.

Eligibility

  • Individuals with depression
  • Also, healthy non-depressed adults
  • You must be age 50 and older
  • You must be able to undergo an MRI

Interested in becoming a Participant?

Contact Stacy Claesges, Research Coordinator, to become a participant or with questions.
sclaesge@mcw.edu | (414) 955-8970

Neurobiological Markers of Major Depression in Individuals with Grief

Experiencing the death of a loved one is inevitable. Most grieving individuals are resilient and return to normal functioning but about 20% develop bereavement-related major depression, a condition associated with reduced quality of life, poorer medical outcomes, premature mortality and increased suicides. Early diagnosis to target treatment is essential to prevent these adverse health consequences, but currently we cannot identify who will progress from acute grief to bereavement-related major depression. Our goal in this project is to evaluate those with acute grief to identify brain changes that distinguish those who are resilient from those who will develop clinical depression.

Funding provided by the Costigan Family Foundation.

Tablet collaboration office setting

Research Study Participation

Are you interested in participating in the Emotion Regulation in Complicated Grief Study?

Complete the survey or contact Stacy Claesges, Research Coordinator, with questions.

sclaesge@mcw.edu | (414) 955-8970

Pebbles stacked on shore

Grief Clinic

The Grief Clinic at the Froedtert & MCW Tosa Behavioral Health Center serves adults who have experienced the death of a loved one. This clinic focuses on improving the health of bereaved individuals.

The clinic has:

  • Therapists who can assist individuals during their acute grieving process.
  • Therapists specifically trained in complicated grief therapy (CGT), and
  • Psychiatrists who treat grief-related complications, including but not limited to prolonged grief disorder; bereavement-related depression and anxiety; and post-traumatic stress disorder.

To schedule an appointment:
Email cbischel@mcw.edu or call (414) 955-8952

In The News

Pandemic Takes Toll on Those Who Grieve
Terry D'arrigo
Psychiatric News, American Psychiatric Association | February 4, 2021

Mental Health: The Emotional Toll of the Pandemic, How Older Adults Are Grieving
Kathy Hardy
Today’s Geriatric Medicine (Vol. 14 No. 1 P. 26)

How COVID-19 Has Made The Grieving Process So Much Harder
WUWM 89.7
Milwaukee’s NPR Lake Effect's Joy Powers talks with Dr. Joseph Goveas about how COVID-19 has made coping with the loss of a loved one more difficult.

Medical College of Wisconsin to Study Brain Changes Following Loss of Loved One to Prevent Grief-Related Complications
Medical College of Wisconsin | August 7, 2020
Urban Milwaukee

Grief over covid-19 deaths may be unusually severe and long-lasting
Alice Klein
NewScientist | July 8, 2020

COVID-19 can trigger complicated grief among those who lost loved ones, experts warn
John Diente
International Business Times | July 10, 2020

COVID-19 May Lead to Uptick in Cases of Prolonged Grief Disorder
Psychiatric News Alert | July 1, 2020

Milwaukee study to focus on growing public health issue of late-life depression
Milwaukee Independent | November 12, 2017

Study finds that education, good health, and positive emotional wellbeing contribute to improved memory health in older women
Medical College of Wisconsin
Urban Milwaukee | February 29, 2016

Other Resources

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National

American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
(National) podcast on Grief by Dr. Goveas (October 2020 podcast)
Learn more

The Center for Complicated Grief
A major resource for webinars, research updates, and scientific articles, podcasts, manuals and tools, handouts related to complicated grief (aka prolonged grief disorder)
Learn more

The Center for Complicated Grief
Training workshops covering principles and practice of complicated grief therapy (CGT)
Learn more

Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC): The Thanatology Association
Several educational resources and websites offering assistance and information on a variety of topics related to grief, trauma, dying and death are listed
Learn more

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Resources on grief and loss
Learn more

Hospice Foundation of America
Grief resources
Learn more

National Funeral Director Association
Grief resources
Learn more

Local

Griefwords
Resources for mourners and caregivers at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin
Learn more

Children’s Wisconsin-Milwaukee Hospital
Grief and bereavement resources
Learn more

Horizon Home Care and Hospice
Grief Resource Center
Learn more

Compassionate Friends
Supporting family after a child dies
Learn more

Southeast Wisconsin Grief Network
Learn more

Archdiocese of Milwaukee Bereavement Ministry
Learn more

Archdiocese of Milwaukee Catholic Cemeteries
Learn more

Support Groups

Horizon Grief Resource Center
11400 W. Lake Park Dr.
Milwaukee WI 53224

This on-going support group is for people whose spouse/partner has died. This group is free of charge and does not require a commitment to attend a certain number of sessions. Please arrive 15-20 minutes early the first time you attend a support group to fill out the opening paperwork (this must be completed before attending group). Call (414) 586-8383 if you have questions.

Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Grief Support Group
Angela Polcyn, MS Thanatology is a bereavement coordinator and grief support specialist with advanced training. She offers a grief support group for families or individuals who have experienced the death of an adult loved one.
Learn more (PDF)

GriefShare support groups and seminars
This is Christian based grief support in various local churches with trained facilitators.
Learn more

Professional Grief Counseling

Grief Clinic
Froedtert Tosa Health Center
1155 N. Mayfair Rd.
Wauwatosa, WI 53226

(414) 955-8952
Please refer to the Grief Clinic description above

North Hills Health Center – Behavioral Health
W129 N7055 Northfield Dr.
Menomonee Falls, WI 53051

(262) 253-5400
Several therapists with experience providing counseling for grieving individuals are accepting patients

Horizon Grief Resource Center (GRC)
11400 W. Lake Park Dr.
Milwaukee, WI 53224

(414) 586-8383
Horizon GRC offers a wide range of grief and bereavement services, including short-term individual and family counseling (by appointment), professional referrals for long-term counseling, support groups for various types of loss, educational workshops, wellness activities, presentations, and educational programs, etc.
Learn more

Recent Publications

Acknowledgements

Contact Us

Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine
Tosa Health Center
1155 N. Mayfair Rd, 3rd Floor
Milwaukee, WI 53226

 

(414) 955-8970

Program Director
Joseph S. Goveas, MD
Associate Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine
Associate Professor, Institute for Health and Equity
Director, Geriatric Psychiatry

Tosa Health Center Google map location