Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Jul-Aug 2017 Contents Dealing with death
Supporting bereaved people can
be challenging but providing
information and acknowledging
loss will help, write NIKKI
ARCHER and IAN LEECH.
e will all experience grief and
bereavement within our lives. Grief is a
normal reaction following a bereavement.
There is no right or wrong way to react.
The loss of a loved one can lead to a range of
thoughts, feelings and behaviours, which include:
• emotional: anger, yearning, sadness, guilt,
numbness, fear, relief, irritability, loneliness,
• cognitive and behavioural: impaired memor y,
difficulty concentrating, searching for and
dreaming about the deceased
• physical: palpitations, shortness of breath,
physical distress, such as chest pain, abdominal
pain, change in appetite and weight, fatigue and
sleeping problems, cr ying and sighing.
You do not “get over” a bereavement.
Most bereaved people find a way to adapt and
learn to live with their loss.
Studies show that only a small proportion
(about 10 per cent) of people will require specialist
inter ventions, while about 30 per cent will require
peer support and formal opportunities for reflection,
frequently offered through volunteer bereavement
support workers and community groups.
The majority – about 60 per cent – will adapt
if provided with information and support from a
compassionate and understanding community network.
The experience of grief may, for those caring for people with
dementia, begin long before the actual death. This has been
termed anticipator y grief and can be described as both the
growing awareness of the impending loss of a relative and the
reaction to the associated and ongoing multiple losses experienced
during the course of the illness, a so-called dual dying.
Family and formal caregivers of the person with dementia
may experience grief in this context. Often such grief is
“disenfranchised” and not recognised within society or
validated by the broader community.
Developing a compassionate community response to
bereavement, where bereavement support is seen as ever yone’s
responsibility, is increasingly being advocated. But what does
this mean and what do caregivers tell us they want and need
to help manage their grief and to adjust to their
new life following the death?
Benefits of information, interest
When it comes to grief there are no hard and
fast rules as to how people will feel, think and
behave at any given time. Everyone’s experiences
and needs will be different. However, studies
consistently show that caregivers who are facing or
who have been bereaved benefit from:
• information about the impact of grief – both
during and after the caregiving experience
• information about the practical issues to be dealt with
• the feeling that someone cares and is interested
in them as an individual
• practical and emotional support provided by
their formal and informal networks.
The Bereavement Care Pathway framework
(bereavement.bsauk.org) identifies who is formally
involved in the provision of bereavement support.
The provision of information, along the pathway,
presented in a variety of formats, and a compassionate
and understanding response from everyone within
the community will benefit many bereaved people.
Many bereaved people report feeling judged by
others, that they are not grieving the “right way.”
As one bereaved caregiver said:
“I feel like I am going mad – I thought after a couple of
weeks things would return to normal, but I am realising they
will never return to normal. Everyone just keeps telling me
to be strong as that’s what she would have wanted. I’m not
sleeping, just restless, unable to concentrate. I feel so lost. I
want to talk about her and all we did but I find it difficult. I
become so upset... my friends find that difficult so I have to
just keep it in.”
Providing information, acknowledging the loss, listening if
they want to talk, respecting their way of coping are ways in
which we can all help support bereaved people by developing a
more compassionate and caring community. n
Nikki Archer is supportive care director and Ian Leech
is community engagement manager at St Giles Hospice,
46 | JULY – AUGUST 2017
DEMENTIA n MEDICATION MANAGEMENT n WOUND CARE
For those caring for
people with dementia
the experience of grief
may begin long before
the person’s death.
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