Why is grief support important in palliative care?

Published: 26/7/2023
Why is grief support important in palliative care?
Why is grief support important in palliative care?

Coping with the end of life is an emotional journey that can be overwhelming for both patients and their loved ones. In the realm of palliative care, where the focus is on providing comfort and support, addressing grief becomes an essential aspect of the holistic care approach. Grief support plays a vital role in helping individuals navigate the complex emotions and challenges that arise during this difficult time.

In this article, we will explore why grief support is pivotal in palliative care and how it can make a significant difference in the lives of those going through this journey.

The role of grief support in palliative care

When faced with a life-limiting illness, individuals and their families experience a wide range of emotions, including sadness, anxiety, fear and anger. Grief support provides a safe space for patients and their loved ones to express and process these emotions. It acknowledges the pain and encourages healthy coping mechanisms, which are essential for emotional well-being.

Validating feelings and normalising grief

Grief support helps individuals understand that their feelings are valid and normal. It allows them to realise that the rollercoaster of emotions they experience is a natural response to the impending loss. By normalising grief, support services reduce feelings of isolation and provide a sense of belonging, as others going through similar experiences can share their stories and empathise.

Benefits of grief support in palliative care

Grief support offers a lifeline for emotional healing and adjustment to the inevitable changes that come with palliative care. Through counselling and therapy sessions, individuals can develop healthy coping strategies and find solace in sharing their feelings and concerns. This support helps them adapt to the new reality and find a sense of peace amidst the turmoil.

Why is grief support important in palliative care?
Why is grief support important in palliative care?

Improved quality of life

By addressing grief and providing support, palliative care teams enhance the overall quality of life for patients and their families. Grief support services may include therapy, support groups, art therapy, or even music therapy, allowing individuals to explore their emotions and find comfort through various mediums. These interventions promote emotional well-being and contribute to a more fulfilling end-of-life experience.  

RELATED ARTICLE: Navigating hospice vs palliative care: Embracing quality of life at every stage

Enhanced communication and family dynamics 

Grief support encourages open and honest communication between patients, their loved ones and the healthcare team. Through facilitated conversations, families can express their fears, concerns and wishes, fostering understanding and strengthening relationships. Effective communication helps ensure that everyone's needs are heard and respected, leading to more compassionate and tailored care.

Enhanced communication and family dynamics 

Grief support encourages open and honest communication between patients, their loved ones and the healthcare team. Through facilitated conversations, families can express their fears, concerns and wishes, fostering understanding and strengthening relationships. Effective communication helps ensure that everyone's needs are heard and respected, leading to more compassionate and tailored care.

Accessing grief support in palliative care

Palliative care teams play a crucial role in providing grief support. These teams consist of various professionals, including doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists and counsellors. They work collaboratively to address the physical, emotional and psychological needs of patients and their families. By integrating grief support into their care plans, these professionals ensure a comprehensive approach to end-of-life care.

Individual and group support

Grief support services are offered in both individual and group settings. Individual counselling provides a one-on-one space for personalised support, tailored to the unique needs of each individual. Group support, on the other hand, offers the opportunity to connect with others who are facing similar challenges, fostering a sense of community and understanding.  

RELATED ARTICLE: Anxiety: The missing stage of grief

The ongoing need for grief support

Grief does not end with the passing of a loved one. Families often require ongoing support even after the loss. Bereavement services, a crucial component of grief support, provide continued assistance to help families navigate the difficult process of grief. These services offer a compassionate space for families to share their feelings, memories, and struggles as they adjust to life without their loved one. Bereavement support may include counselling, support groups, memorial events, and resources to help individuals rebuild their lives after loss.

Supporting healthcare professionals

Grief support is not only essential for patients and families but also for the healthcare professionals involved in their care. Palliative care providers often form deep connections with their patients and may experience their own grief and emotional toll. Support services help healthcare professionals process their emotions, prevent burnout, and continue to provide compassionate care.  

In the realm of palliative care, grief support holds immense value for patients, families and healthcare professionals alike. By acknowledging and addressing the complex emotions and challenges that arise during this vulnerable time, grief support nurtures emotional well-being, validates feelings and normalises the grieving process. Palliative care can create a compassionate and supportive environment where individuals can navigate their emotions, find comfort  and experience a higher quality of life during this challenging journey.  

To find support:  

Beyond Blue provides Australians with information and support to improve their mental health. Call 1300 22 46 36 or visit beyondblue.org.au for more information.  

Lifeline Australia provides Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24-hour crisis support. Call 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au for more information.  

GriefLine listens, cares and supports people experiencing loss and grief, at any stage in life. Call 1300 845 6am to midnight AEST, 7 days a week.  

MensLine Australia is a professional telephone and online support and information service for Australian men. Call 1300 78 99 78, 24 hours / 7 days a week.  

Kids Helpline is a free 24/7, confidential and private counselling service Australia wide specifically for children and young people aged 5 to 25 years. Call 1800 55 1800.  

Life Supports Counselling provides Australians with experienced counsellors & psychologists in their local area Australia-wide. Call 1300 735

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