Bereavement care is an essential element of hospice care that includes anticipating reactions from grief and providing continuing support for the bereaved for 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 the loss.
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 sadness, anxiety, guilt, anger 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 many other factors. Friends, family and faith may be sources of support. Grief counseling or grief therapy is also helpful to some people. Our hospice provides counseling services.
Each person takes their own passage through the grief and healing process. Allow yourself to understand that not every person experiences and deals with the loss of a loved one in the same manor. There are many cultural and/or religious practices supported in communities to help those facing loss, but there is no “one way” or “one plan” that can or will work for everybody.
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.
Grief is a normal and a highly expected reaction to a loss. Each person grieves in their own way. The first year of bereavement is the most difficult as the bereaved experiences the “year of the firsts”, first birthday, first holiday, first anniversary, etc. without their lost loved one
Tasks of the Grieving Process
· 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 puzzled at the time of death and may need to be gently guided in making decisions. Activities at the time of death that can assist family members in the early grieving stages are:
· Listen as the family reminisce about the deceased.
· 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.