Bereavement Services are a Hospice Benefit

Bereavement Services are a Hospice Benefit

Courtesy Visiting Nurse Association, Collin County LIVING WELL Magazine

The loss of a loved one can have an impact long after death. Healing from the loss of a spouse is a longer process than most people realize. By being patient with oneself and having the support of family members and friends, grief usually softens over time. Sometimes, though, it’s helpful to have additional support when dealing with grief from a loss.

Many people don’t know that hospice care includes bereavement support services for families of patients. Hospice providers are required to offer bereavement services to families if Medicare or Medicaid has funded the patient’s care. Medicare and Medicaid also require that bereavement services be offered at no cost to families and for the duration of at least 12 months.

Bereavement services may include support groups, grief recovery workshops and seminars, luncheons that feature speakers on bereavement topics, chaplaincy support, and one-on-one counseling. Bereavement services are provided by qualified social workers, chaplains, nurses, and trained volunteers.


Support groups can be helpful for a number of reasons. Sometimes friends and family reach out to a family member soon after the death of a loved one, but their support drops away after a month or two. At the same time, the person is becoming more aware of the many ways the death has changed his or her life and the reality of the loss begins to set in. A person may feel like his or her world has stopped, everyone else is moving on, and no one understands. The person may also wonder whether his or her feelings are normal and healthy.

A grief support group can provide a safe, caring environment where people can talk to others who are also experiencing similar feelings. Talking about one’s feelings resulting from loss in a safe environment can help reduce the stress that accompanies grief. Support group participants learn what to expect during the grief process, what reactions are common, and what others are experiencing. Oftentimes, new friendships are formed as members talk to others who are going through similar struggles. Grief support group members have a common bond and can encourage one another as they share losses, struggles, successes, and hopes for the future.


Grief recovery workshops and seminars are usually one-day meetings that offer information, instruction, and discussion on bereavement issues.  Social workers, chaplains, and other professionals trained in bereavement support provide strategies and other help for coping with grief.

These workshops and seminars can be especially helpful during the holiday season, which is frequently stressful for the bereaved. It’s one of the hardest times of the year for someone who is grieving. It’s not unusual for the holiday season to trigger feelings of sadness and loss, even years after a loved one has died.  


Hospice is a team effort that seeks holistically to meet the needs of patients and their families.  Nurses, social workers, volunteers, personal care attendants, and chaplains contribute in their own professional way. Chaplains are an influential part of the team that assists with bereavement issues.

Hospice chaplains have clinical backgrounds that are specialized to help with end-of-life issues, loss, and grief. They minister closely with patients and their families in ways that respect and support their spiritual background. Hospice chaplains do not take the place of the family’s clergy, but work with them to provide needed spiritual support.


Some hospice programs hold luncheons featuring speakers who provide grief recovery advice and support. Bereavement luncheons offer supportive company from friendly and understanding people to individuals who have suffered the loss of a loved one and who want to learn about grief without having to participate in a group.


For those grieving the loss of a loved one, it’s important to know that there are resources available to help surviving family members and friends heal. If hospice services were provided for your loved one, check with that agency to learn what bereavement support services it provides.

Additional information about hospice services can be obtained by contacting Elaine Harrison, R.N., at the Visiting Nurse Association at 972-533-4676 (cell) or You can also go online at