Commemoration of disruptive events : a scoping review about posttraumatic stress reactions and related factors

Collective commemoration in response to war or disaster is widespread across time and cultures. It is assumed to support those affected by the disruptive event to cope with their experiences. However, the actual relationship between commemoration and mental health outcomes is complicated and evidence of healing effects remains elusive.


By applying a scoping review approach, this article maps empirical studies that focus on commemoration from a psychological perspective. Within five electronic databases, 415 unique articles were identified, of which 26 met the predetermined inclusion criteria, i.e. presenting empirical data on the subject of war or large-scale violence and commemoration in relation to posttraumatic stress (PTS) and grief reactions. The data were extracted and analysed according to the five steps of a systematic scoping review. Results varied, with both negative and positive effects of commemoration on PTS and grief reactions being reported. Based on these findings we propose an evidence-informed model that distinguishes different aspects influencing the linkage between commemoration and PTS and grief reactions.


The following aspects are distinguished: contextual factors, including political and cultural context, individual characteristics and facilitating mechanism, including expression, recognition, support, meaning-making and personal memories. The proposed model needs to be tested and validated by further quantitative research. This will allow social workers and policy makers to make well-informed decisions about commemorative events that may benefit fractured communities as well as individuals.



• Collective commemoration after large-scale violence aims to assist survivors to cope with disruptive events.

• Twenty-six empirical studies examined the experience of posttraumatic stress and grief after commemoration.

• Commemoration may elevate stress and grief reactions, but is also experienced as helpful by many individuals.

• The presence or absence of broader aspects, including recognition and support, influences individual responses and help us to understand under what circumstances commemoration can be beneficial.

Huibertha B. Mitima-Verloop, Paul A. Boelen & Trudy T. M. Mooren | 2020
In: European Journal of Psychotraumatology, ISSN 2000-8066 | 11 | 1 | 1701226
Anniversary Reactions (en), Commemoration, Communities, Coping Behavior, Disasters, Emotional States, Literature Review, Loss, Memory, Mental health, Psychosocial support, Psychotrauma, PTSD (en), Public health, Research, Rituals, Social Support, Stressors, Survivors, Traumatic events, Veterans, War