Understanding Bereavement Support and Duties of Different Healthcare Groups.

Life is full of joy, love, and connection. But unfortunately, it also involves loss. When someone close to us dies, we experience a range of emotions and challenges. This experience is called bereavement.

Bereavement, the state of grief after a loss, can have a significant impact on an individual’s emotional, physical, and mental well-being. It’s a natural reaction to the loss of a loved one, and it can take many shapes and forms.

During this difficult time, having access to appropriate bereavement support can make a substantial difference in navigating the complex journey of mourning and healing.

bereavement and support post cover image

Defining Bereavement, Grief, Mourning, and Loss

  • Bereavement: This refers to the emotional and psychological experience of losing someone close to you. It involves the feelings of sadness, grief, anger, confusion, and loneliness that come with loss, particularly the death of a loved one.
  • Grief: Grief is a natural response to bereavement. It’s a complex emotion that can manifest in many ways, including physical symptoms like fatigue or changes in appetite.
  • Mourning: Mourning is the outward expression of grief. It can involve rituals, traditions, or practices that help us process our loss and say goodbye.
  • Loss: Loss is a broader term that can encompass any kind of significant absence in our lives, not just death. It could be the loss of a pet, a job, a relationship, or the loss of a sense of identity.
LossThe physical or emotional absence of someone or something that held significance.Objective EventLoss of a loved one, job, pet, home
GriefThe emotional response to a loss. It’s a natural process that involves feelings of sadness, anger, guilt, and loneliness.Internal ExperienceFeeling heartbroken, overwhelmed, tearful, or angry after a loss
MourningThe outward expression of grief. It involves rituals, traditions, and behaviors that help people cope with their loss.External ExpressionAttending a funeral, wearing black clothing, creating memory albums
BereavementThe state of having experienced a loss, especially the death of a loved one.State of BeingBeing a bereaved parent, spouse, or friend
the table shows: grief, loss, mourning, and bereavement

What is Bereavement Support?

Bereavement support refers to a range of services and resources aimed at supporting individuals, families, and communities in coping with the emotional, physical, and practical challenges that arise after the death of a loved one.

This support can take various forms, including counseling, support groups, educational resources, and practical assistance.

The primary goal of bereavement support is to provide a safe and supportive environment where individuals can express their grief, process their emotions, and receive guidance and coping strategies to navigate the grieving process.

 It also aims to provide practical assistance, such as help with funeral arrangements, legal matters, and navigating the various systems and resources available to bereaved individuals.

Bereavement support can be provided by a variety of professionals, including nurses, social workers, counselors, psychologists, chaplains, and trained volunteers.

These individuals work collaboratively to offer a comprehensive and coordinated approach to supporting those grieving the loss of a loved one.

grief and loss quote by Elizabeth Kuber-Ross which say we never truly get over a loss, but we can move formard and evolve from it

Bereavement Care in Hospices

Hospices play a vital role in providing bereavement care and support to individuals and families facing terminal illness. These specialised care facilities prioritise not only the physical care of the patient but also the emotional and spiritual well-being of both the patient and their loved ones.

In hospices, bereavement support often begins before the patient’s death, helping families prepare for the impending loss and providing education on the grieving process.

After the patient’s passing, hospices typically offer a range of services, including individual and group counseling, support groups, and referrals to community resources.

Hospice staff, including nurses, social workers, chaplains, and bereavement counselors, work together to provide tailored support to each family, taking into account their unique cultural, religious, and personal needs.

Bereavement care in hospices is often extended for a while after the patient’s death, recognising that grief is an ongoing process that may require ongoing support.

Carers, Nurses, and Counselors in bereavement support

Healthcare professionals, such as nurses, physicians, and social workers, play a crucial role in providing bereavement support to patients and their families.

They are often the first point of contact and can offer emotional support, practical guidance, and referrals to appropriate bereavement services.


Nurses, in particular, are well placed to provide compassionate care and support during the end-of-life stage and in the immediate aftermath of a patient’s death.

Their duties may include enabling open communication, offering emotional support, and providing reasonable help with tasks such as funeral arrangements and grief resources.


Carers, whether family members or professional caregivers, also play a significant role in supporting bereaved individuals.

They may witness firsthand the emotional and physical toll of grief and can provide a listening ear, practical assistance, and encouragement to seek professional support when needed.


Counselors and therapists specializing in bereavement and grief counseling offer professional support tailored to the unique needs of each individual or family.

Through individual or group counseling sessions, they can help explore the complex emotions surrounding loss, develop coping strategies, and facilitate the healing process.

Take Online an Course: CPD Approved Loss and Bereavement Awareness Online Training.

The Role of Support:

Bereavement can be a difficult and overwhelming experience. That is where the bereavement support role comes in. It’s the care and assistance provided to individuals and families who are grieving.

This support role can come from many different form and sources, which are:

  • Nurses and Carers: Nurses and carers who work with terminally ill patients often have specialized training in bereavement support. They can provide practical help and emotional support to both the patient and their loved ones.
  • Counselors: Grief counselors are mental health professionals specifically trained to help people cope with loss. They can provide individual or group therapy to help you understand your emotions, develop coping mechanisms, and find healthy ways to grieve.
  • Support Groups: Connecting with others who have experienced similar losses can be incredibly helpful. Support groups provide a safe space to share your experiences, receive emotional support, and learn from others.
  • Friends and Family: The support of loved ones can be invaluable during times of grief. Talking to trusted friends and family members can help you feel less alone and provide a sense of comfort.

The Duties of Caregivers:

Those who care for the bereaved have an important role to play.

Here are some key duties for nurses, carers, counselors, and others involved in bereavement support:

  • Active Listening: Create a safe space for individuals to express their emotions freely, without judgment. Listen attentively and offer empathy.
  • Validation: Acknowledge the validity of their emotions. Let them know that their feelings are normal and understandable.
  • Education: Provide information about grief and the bereavement process. Help them understand what to expect and offer resources to cope with their emotions.
  • Practical Support: Offer practical assistance with daily tasks such as errands, meals, or childcare. This can alleviate stress and allow them more space to focus on their grief.
  • Connecting to Resources: Help connect them to bereavement support services like counseling, support groups, or online resources.

Bereavement in Hospice:

Hospices, while providing care for the terminally ill, are also aware of the impact on families. Here are some guidelines for bereavement care in a hospice setting:

  • Early Intervention: Hospice teams often initiate conversations about bereavement support early on, acknowledging the potential impact of loss and providing resources.
  • Anticipatory Grief: Discussing and acknowledging anticipatory grief – the emotions experienced before a loss actually occurs – helps families prepare for the emotional journey ahead.
  • Continuity of Care: Hospice staff may continue to offer support and resources to families after their loved one’s passing.

Helpful Content: Ways Nurses and Carers Can Provide Emotional Support To Patients.

Bereavement Support Groups and Resources

 In addition to professional support, many communities offer bereavement support groups and resources.

These groups provide a safe and supportive environment where individuals can share their experiences, emotions, and coping strategies with others who are going through similar situations.

Support groups can be facilitated by trained professionals, such as counselors or social workers, or by peers who have experienced significant loss themselves. These groups offer a sense of community, validation, and a chance to learn from others’ experiences.

Online resources, including websites, forums, and social media groups, have also become valuable sources of information and support for those grieving.

These platforms can provide access to educational materials, grief resources, and connections with others who are navigating the bereavement process.

Quote reads "Grief is the process of healing the wounds left by the loss of someone or something important to you. It takes time, patience, and self-compassion." 

- Unknown

What is bereavement support payment for?

The Bereavement Support Payment (BSP) is a benefit provided by the UK government to help with costs after the death of a spouse or civil partner.

The payments replaced the old bereavement benefits (Bereavement Payment, Bereavement Allowance and Widowed Parent’s Allowance) for deaths occurring after April 2017.

Specifically, it is a tax-free lump sum payment intended to provide financial support during the period immediately after a partner’s death.

The payment is designed to give the bereaved some help adjusting to their new circumstances.

The key points about the Bereavement Support Payment are:

  • It is paid to surviving husbands, wives or civil partners whose spouse or civil partner paid National Insurance contributions.
  • It consists of an initial lump sum followed by up to 18 monthly instalments.
  • The amount depends on the deceased’s National Insurance contributions, the survivor’s age, and whether there are surviving children.
  • As of 2022/23, the maximum lump sum is £3,500 and the monthly instalments are up to £350.
  • It is paid out more quickly than the previous Bereavement Benefits system it replaced in 2017.
  • It can only be claimed within 3 months of a partner’s death.

It provides short-term financial assistance to bereaved partners to help cover costs and loss of income in the difficult period immediately following a spouse or civil partner’s death in the UK.


Bereavement is a profound and deeply personal experience, yet it is a journey that no one should have to navigate alone.

By understanding the complexities of grief, mourning, and loss, and having access to comprehensive bereavement support services, individuals and families can find solace, guidance, and the necessary resources to heal and move forward with resilience.

 It is the collective responsibility of healthcare professionals, caregivers, counselors, and communities to ensure that compassionate and comprehensive bereavement support is available to all who need it during this challenging time.

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