Many bereaved people find that the support of friends, family and the local community sees them through a time of pain and loss. But others struggle to find the help they need. In some cases, that is because they may be reluctant to talk to family or friends or they may be socially isolated. When people seek support they may encounter a number of problems: services are patchy, there may be waiting lists for the sort of help they want and often people say that it is hard to find information.
Bereavement support needs to be available at many levels to meet the needs of people in different circumstances and with different preferences. The three-component model of bereavement support was first set out in the 2004 NICE guidance on Improving Supportive and Palliative Care for Adults with Cancer and elaborated in our recent Guide to commissioning bereavement services in England. It sets out what should be available in each local area, and how support should be knitted together to make sure that everyone can access the help they need at the right time.
Component one includes support from friends and families, plus information about what grief is like and details of local and national sources of support. There are some great new resources out there responding to both aspects.
For example, the new films from Cruse Bereavement Care’s Get Together programme show families explaining aspects of grief and their experiences. Independent Age have produced good information for older people which is available in audio format as well as written web pages. For those bereaved of a child, the Compassionate Friends website has lots of information, as does the Cruse website for bereaved people in wider circumstances. For those who want an in-depth understanding of grief and how it might be affecting them, the Loss Foundation’s films are an excellent starting point, with features including anger, anxiety and sleep.
Information and education isn’t enough for everyone: some people will want and need support in person from other bereaved people, volunteers or professionals. The VOICES survey of bereaved relatives found that around 20 per cent of bereaved people say they would have liked to talk to someone from a health, social care or bereavement service about their feelings about their relative’s illness or death, but did not get to do so. Sometimes, that is because convenient or appropriate help simply is not available. But sometimes, it is because people do not know about the help that is out there. That is why it is such good news that two new signposting websites have emerged.
AtALoss.org has a postcode search allowing people to look for local support for their circumstances. For those who want to talk right now, the site has a free Griefchat service available between 9am and 9pm. The Good Grief Trust has a directory of support services and a range of videos and links to other resources, bringing help and hope in one place.
As anyone who has developed a directory knows, it is a constant challenge to make sure that information is up to date and reliable. If your organisation provides a bereavement service, please do keep your details up to date on these sites, so that people can find their way to you as quickly and smoothly as possible. Better signposting helps make the journey that bit easier.
Please do suggest any other resources you have found helpful in the comments section below.