Research into services and needs for people experiencing complicated grief (Phase 1)

Research into services and needs for people experiencing complicated grief (Phase 1)

Funder: Australian Government Department of Health
Duration: June 2016 – March 2017

Download the final report

Complicated Grief Final Report Cover

Thompson C, Williams K, Masso M, Morris D, Kobel C, Duncan C and Samsa P (2017) Research into services and needs for people experiencing complicated grief: Final report. Centre for Health Service Development, Australian Health Services Research Institute, University of Wollongong.


The CHSD was commissioned by the Palliative Care Section, Australian Government Department of Health, to undertake research into services and needs for people experiencing complicated grief, arising from the death of a relative or meaningful individual in someone’s life.

Bereavement – the loss of a loved one through death – is a normal, common human experience. Although it is associated with a period of acute suffering, most people adapt to their loss over time. For a few people, however, bereavement can lead to extreme and persistent mental and physical ill health, making it an issue of concern for both clinical practice and preventative care (Stroebe et al., 2007).

This research was undertaken to support the Palliative Care Section in the provision of policy advice to Government on issues relating to complicated grief.

What we did

A methodology was developed to ensure the research captured multiple perspectives of the key stakeholders affected by the phenomenon of complicated grief. The research design was based on a mixed methods approach that supported triangulation of data through using multiple qualitative and quantitative data sources.

The following core components of the project were undertaken during 2016:

  • Targeted review of the academic literature to answer a series of research questions.
  • Semi-structured interviews with 18 key stakeholders recognised as having highly relevant expertise in the domain of complicated grief and/or related fields to explore a range of issues.
  • Discussion groups, one with nine NSW-based bereavement counsellors and another with three researchers currently engaged in bereavement studies.
  • Survey of a convenience sample of service providers to support a gap analysis of needs and current resources, services and structures for people experiencing complicated grief, map national complex bereavement services and identify workforce gaps.
  • Secondary data analysis of several existing and accessible data sets to explore service demand and supply issues.
  • Synthesis of data sources and findings through the production of a comprehensive project report.

In early 2017 a facilitated workshop with key experts was conducted to review the findings presented in the draft final report, discuss policy related issues and draft recommendations, as well as to identify practical steps to progress supported recommendations. The final report was submitted in March 2017.

Phase 2

A second phase of research was undertaken: 'Addressing the needs of people experiencing prolonged grief (Phase 2)'


Project team: Cristina Thompson, Kate Williams, Malcolm Masso, Darcy Morris, Conrad Kobel, Cathy Duncan and Peter Samsa

Last reviewed: 3 August, 2018

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