Grief and palliative care experts have today launched a national campaign designed to improve support for bereaved families, after a survey found many had no one to talk to about their loss.
The survey by the Dying Matter Coalition found those who had suffered bereavement often felt unsupported and experienced negative reactions to their grief.
“Being there to talk, listen and provide support can make a real difference”
More than 2,000 adults were polled, with just over a quarter of those who had been bereaved in the past five years reporting people had avoided talking to them after the death of a loved one.
Just under a third – 34% – said people changed the subject while a quarter said not enough family, friends or colleagues had supported them and some had even lost friends.
Seventy per cent said talking about their loss helped them feel better, but 21% who wanted to talk could not find anyone to listen.
The findings were published to coincide with the launch of the Being There campaign to help people know what to say and do after someone has been bereaved, including over the Christmas and New Year period – a particularly difficult time for grieving families.
The survey found almost half of respondents – 47% – admitted they would feel uncomfortable talking to someone who had been recently bereaved.
“Many people who have lost a loved one not only have to deal with the bereavement itself but also with the reaction of others,” said Claire Henry, chief executive of the National Council for Palliative Care, which leads the Dying Matters Coalition.
“Although it can be difficult to know what to say or do for the best when someone has been bereaved, being there to talk, listen and provide support can make a real difference,” she said.
“We need to be much better at discussing our wishes and feeling confident about offering support”
The campaign is backed by the Royal College of Nursing. Its chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said nurses played a vital role in supporting bereaved families but everyone, including the public, needed to get better at talking about death.
“As with care of dying people, we need to be much better at discussing our wishes and feeling confident about offering support,” he said.
“Nurses have led the way in delivering services to the bereaved and these should be made as widely available as possible but there is also a clear message to individuals here,” he added.
As part of the campaign, the Dying Matters Coalition has published a leaflet which contains suggestions of what to do and say – and not to do – when someone is bereaved, based on the experiences of bereaved families.