HSE raises awareness of bereavement and grief this winter

Launch of information and signposting campaign in partnership with Irish Hospice Foundation

The HSE has today (Thursday, 2nd December 2021) launched a new public information campaign to raise awareness of enhanced supports and services available for people who are experiencing bereavement. 

The campaign aims to help people understand their own grief, provide advice for those supporting people who have been bereaved and to raise awareness of support services available. 

In partnership with Irish Hospice Foundation, the improved supports in place include, dedicated pages on HSE.ie (www.hse.ie/grief (file:///C:/Users/marygleeson1/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/INetCache/Content.Outlook/Z2SZ0BY2/www.hse.ie/grief)), hospital resource packs and a commitment to funding five hospital-based Bereavement Liaison Officers to support bereaved families.  The HSE and Irish Hospice Foundation have been working together to develop these supports and services since the start of the COVID-19.

Irish Hospice Foundation also operates the National Bereavement Support Line which is a national freephone service 1800 80 70 77 available from 10am to 1pm, Monday to Friday, providing a confidential space for people to speak about their experience or to seek advice or information about bereavement.

Welcoming the initiative, Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler TD said: “Even in more normal times, the loss of a loved one can be extremely difficult. It can trigger a dip in your mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic means that the things we would usually do to support those grieving may have to be done differently. I would like to thank the HSE for shining a light on grief at this time and for raising awareness of the supports available.”

HSE Chief Operations Officer, Anne O Connor, said: “The aim of this programme of work is to support anyone who has experienced a bereavement at any time, but is inspired by the huge disruption to end of life care and rituals that happened due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Covid has made grieving more difficult for bereaved people. Bereaved individuals and families may not have their usual expected supports through bereavement, this is especially important considering older people that were cocooning and unable to visit loved ones. We would also like to acknowledge the impact loss and bereavement may have had on HSE staff during the COVID pandemic. These resources may also be helpful for staff who have experienced a bereavement personally in their own lives.”

Irish Hospice Foundation, Head of Education and Bereavement, Orla Keegan said: “Grief is a lonely territory that people can find so difficult to navigate alone.  The Bereavement Support Line provides a human presence at the end of the phone; it represents dedicated time for a grieving person to be listened to with care and with compassion.  Our trained volunteers do their best to offer comfort, support and information to callers bereaved at any time, however many of the callers have met with grief during the particularly challenging and isolating period of the ongoing pandemic.”

Sharon Cunningham, HSE Counselling in Primary Care (CIPC) Coordinator in the Midlands said: Everyone reacts differently to bereavement. Most people can recover from loss on their own, with support from family, friends and their community. If your grief feels continuous for a long time, and your feelings get harder to cope with over time, however, it is important to seek professional support and advice and to speak to your GP. Counselling can help by providing you with a confidential and supportive space to talk about your feelings.  Sometimes those close to us are grieving too and we can be fearful of upsetting each other.  Your counsellor can help you to navigate your own individual journey through grief.  The experience of ‘loss’ has been central to the COVID-19 pandemic and it is important that people know there is support there to help us deal with loss when we need it.”

Campaign key messages:

  1. Grief is a natural process which occurs after a bereavement or other types of loss.
  2. Grief experiences are different for everyone. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
  3. There are not five stages of grief, it ebbs and flows. Some feelings might come occasionally or catch you by surprise. Others might be more persistent.
  4. There is no time limit to grieve - it takes the time it takes.
  5. There are lots of ways to people can develop their own personal coping strategies.
  6. There is no hierarchy of grief. Grief is not time sensitive and it can trigger other grief.
  7. The Covid 19 Pandemic has made grieving more difficult for bereaved people. Bereaved individuals and families may not have their usual expected supports through bereavement, this is especially important considering older people that were cocooning and unable to visit loved ones.
  8. If your grief feels continuous for a long time, and your feelings get harder to cope with over time (rather than gradually easier), it is important to seek professional support and advice. Talk with your GP about how you are feeling - especially if your feelings get harder to cope with over time or if you feel prolonged agitation, depression, guilt or despair.

For information on bereavement, loss and grief visit the HSE website at www.hse.ie/grief

Please use the hashtag #Copingwithgrief on social media.

Last updated on: 02 / 12 / 2021