Death can still be seen as sudden by families and carers, even if the patient has been sick for some time. Health professionals can support families and carers by providing appropriate grief and bereavement care and identifying services for further support if needed.
Families and carers response to the patient’s death can vary in nature, as grief will be unique to each person.
The bereavement process refers to coping with grief and has been described as the entire period of anticipation, death and subsequent adjustment to living, following the death of a significant other. 
Preparing families for death may reduce bereavement stress. Health professionals can help by recognising the family and their knowledge of the patient and holding family meetings to share information. 
Bereavement support will vary depending on the care context and organisational support. Some of the ways in which clinical and non-clinical staff might be involved in bereavement support include:
Palliative Care Australia (PCA) and the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement (ACGB) explain the relationship between grief and bereavement, and the role of health professionals.
The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne website has information on grief from the parent, sibling, and grandparent viewpoint and provide practical advice on the care that health professionals can provide.
Read PCA/ACGB Policy Statement Grief and Bereavement
Read Statement (156kb pdf)
Providing families with resources and education to help them deal with grief and bereavement is part of the health professional role. Knowing where to find reliable resources is important.
If providing bereavement support is out of scope for a health professional then referral to those with the skills and competencies required is important.
The Department of Health and Aged Care have defined a set of 11 standards for professionals working in inpatient, acute and consultancy services. Details on each of the standards and factors to consider when implementing the standards at different points in the bereavement trajectory are described.
Download Bereavement support standards for specialist palliative care services
Read Support Standards
Nurses within acute care hospitals are in the unique position to support the needs of the suddenly bereaved, providing psychosocial support to families, and arranging referral to interdisciplinary services during end-of-life care. 
Visit CareSearch loss, grief, and bereavement for nurses webpage
Visit Loss, grief and bereavement for nurses
Self-care is important, as looking after your well-being will help maintain your ability to care for others. Reaching out to colleagues for support can be beneficial. There are also the following services:
Last updated 22 November 2022