Background Within the hospice setting traditional bereavement support is offered for people with complex grief through counselling services. However, we recognised there was a growing need for peer support due to increased isolation during lockdown (Hanna, Rapa, Dalton, et al., 2021. Palliat Med. 35: 843). We gave newly bereaved people the opportunity to meet over Zoom as a peer-led support group. Over time this group grew, and when lockdown eased, we were able to invite them to meet face-to-face. This group of people had not had any traditional rituals that we would normally associate with dying and death.
Identify and provide services that offer access to face-to-face group support for people with shared experiences (Harrop, Goss, Farnell, et al., 2021. Palliat Med. 35: 1985).
Enable people to reconnect and build social networks.
Talk openly within a safe environment about how their bereavement during lockdown had affected them.
Gain support from their peers and offer support to others in the group.
Reduce feelings of isolation.
Methods Self-referral to the support group - which occurs weekly. Assessment to establish that this group could offer the required support. Or, to understand if they might benefit from more substantial support e.g. counselling. Evaluation forms were completed after six months.
Results New friendships and relationships were formed. Qualitative narratives gained both verbally and from written feedback showed that the support of peers is invaluable, improving wellbeing and purpose for living.
Conclusion As a result of lockdown, people who were affected by the death of a loved one had little comfort in what society would deem normal (Harrop, Scott, Sivell, et al., 2020. BMC Palliat Care. 19: 29). There were no, or few bedside goodbyes. Funerals had limitations on attendees, forcing families to make difficult choices and no family gatherings to give comfort. This group of people had to grieve alone. Being part of a support group who can all share these same experiences has enhanced grieving by validating each other’s experiences.
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