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P-32 Exploring loss and grief with people with intellectual disabilities
  1. Gemma Allen
  1. The Mary Stevens Hospice, Stourbridge, UK


Staff working in the intellectual disability sector often experience a lack of confidence speaking with people with intellectual disabilities about death, dying and grief, and attention is required to the training needs of this workforce (Lord, Field, Smith, 2017). A community group that supports people with intellectual disabilities contacted the hospice, expressing concern over individuals who had experienced a recent bereavement. With the support of an art psychotherapist, the hospice facilitated two group creative sessions. The first involved sketching and writing, collectively exploring emotions and feelings relative to grief. One person shared her drawing with the group saying, ‘that’s how my throat feels when I’m sad. The circles in my tummy are the bubbles I feel when I’m nervous.’

The second involved legacy work and storytelling. This enabled the opportunity to reflect and share stories whilst creating spiritual bead work. Using arts-based approaches and creativity allowed a reflective space for people with intellectual disabilities to explore their feelings of loss and grief. Individuals displayed a varied level of understanding and concept of death, dying and grief and highlighted the importance of using clear and concise language when communicating with people with intellectual disabilities (PCPLD Network, 2020).

People wanted to share their grief with the group, and peer support was significant with people showing empathy, support, and compassion towards one another. Staff felt supported and confident following the sessions, with a greater understanding of loss and grief.

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