Interim Hospice Bereavement and Grief
Bereavement care is an essential component of hospice care that includes anticipating grief reactions and providing ongoing support for the bereaved over a period of 13 months. While the terms are often used interchangeably, bereavement refers to the state of loss, and grief is the reaction to loss.
Bereavement Following a Death
Bereavement is the period of grief and mourning after a death. When you grieve, it's part of the normal process of reacting to a loss. You may experience grief as a mental, physical, social or emotional reaction. Mental reactions can include anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness and despair. Physical reactions can include sleeping problems, changes in appetite, physical problems or illness.
How long bereavement lasts can depend on how close you were to the person who died, if the person's death was expected and other factors. Friends, family and faith may be sources of support. Grief counseling or grief therapy is also helpful to some people.
Each of us takes their own journey through grief and healing. Allow yourself to open up to the idea that not every person experiences and deals with the loss of a loved one in the same way. As there are many cultural and or religious practices supported in communities to help those facing loss, understand that there is no “one way” or “one plan” that can work for everybody.
Interim HealthCare Hospice bereavement programs focus on:
- Helping family members understand and move forward in the grief process by facilitating their expression of thoughts and feelings and helping them identify or develop and utilize healthy coping strategies
- Helping families problem-solve around adjustment issues
- Providing guidance about decision making
- Addressing social and spiritual concerns
- Assisting survivors to adapt to an environment without the deceased while experiencing a continued (transformed) relationship with the deceased.
Attention to and respect for the ethnicity and cultural background of the families and care givers that are served by Interim HealthCare Hospices is essential in the development and provision of appropriate bereavement care.
Grief is a normal and expected reaction to loss. The grieving process is individualized; there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Each person grieves in their own way. The first year of bereavement is the most difficult as the bereaved experiences the “year of firsts” such as first birthday, first holiday, first anniversary, etc. without their loved one
The tasks of the grieving process include:
- Accepting the reality of the loss
- Working through the pain of grief
- Adjusting to an environment where the deceased is missing
- Emotionally relocating the deceased and moving on with life
Most bereaved work through each task of the grieving process and recover however, occasionally the bereaved experiences “complicated grief”. Complicated grief is when the normal grief reactions become intense or protracted. This may indicate a psychiatric disorder such as depression, anxiety disorder etc. In these cases a referral to a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist may be necessary.
Family members are often bewildered at the time of death and may need to be gently guided in decision making. Activities at the time of death that can assist family members in the early grieving process are:
- Listen as the family reminisce about the deceased patient
- Facilitate religious/spiritual rituals – contact the family clergy or hospice chaplain
- Allow the family to help with the care of the body, if desired, and allow them to be present with the body as long as they wish.
The Impact of Grief on Healthcare Professionals
Healthcare professionals can also experience grief when caring for dying patients. These healthcare professionals may experience more intense grief if the patient has been under their care for a long period of time. Bereavement support for healthcare professionals, especially hospice employees, is essential.
Interim Hospice bereavement professionals serve as important advocates to promote attention and action related to grief and loss. Hospice bereavement programs focus on hospice patients’ and families’ grief and loss concerns, staff and volunteer grief and loss needs, and grief and loss needs in the community at large. In this way, hospice bereavement professionals serve as strong community advocates for promoting understanding of grief and attention to the needs of the community’s grieving population. Interim Hospice bereavement professionals can also advocate for education and research to further knowledge about grief and loss and identify the most effective interventions to facilitate healthy coping.