Prolonged grief (Phase 2)

Addressing the needs of people experiencing prolonged grief

Funder: Australia Government Department of Health
Duration: June 2017 - March 2018



Thompson C, Morris D and Williams K (2017) Bereavement support and prolonged grief: Issues for residential aged care (Issues Brief). Centre for Health Service Development, Australian Health Services Research Institute, University of Wollongong.

Williams K, Morris D and Thompson C (2017) Issues Paper: Stakeholder views and evidence relating to bereavement support for carers. Centre for Health Service Development, Australian Health Services Research Institute, University of Wollongong.

Williams K, Thompson C and Morris D (2017) Prolonged grief: Applying the evidence in the primary care setting - Issues Brief for Primary Health Networks. Centre for Health Service Development, Australian Health Services Research Institute, University of Wollongong. 

webinar with Primary Health Networks was conducted on 31 October 2017, with headline findings presented to PHN representatives.



The objective of this project was to undertake a second phase of research on issues relating to bereavement and prolonged grief (formerly referred to as complicated grief), arising from the death of a significant person in someone’s life. This will assist the Palliative Care Section to address several short-term recommendations arising from the Phase 1 research project.

Further details about the Phase 1 research project are available to view. In addition, the Phase 1 final report is available to download.

Three sub-projects were undertaken concurrently as Phase 2 of this project:

  1. Disseminating findings/knowledge translation about prolonged grief for primary care, aged care and palliative care sectors.
  2. Supporting patient access to bereavement support and/or prolonged grief services through primary care and palliative care services.
  3. Identifying effective bereavement support strategies for carers engaged with palliative care services.

What we did

A suite of deliverables were completed during the year as part of the program of research into services and needs for people experiencing bereavement and prolonged grief.

For sub-project 1, an issues brief was produced for Primary Health Networks and a webinar was conducted by the CHSD project team. Headline findings were presented to representatives of Primary Health Networks across Australia and an opportunity for questions from participants was provided. In addition, a second issues brief for residential aged care was developed, based on a number of semi-structured interviews with large residential aged care providers in both the not-for-profit and for-profit sector and with peak organisations of key provider groups about their perceived need for information on bereavement support and prolonged grief in the residential aged care sector.

For sub-project 2, a report on pathways of bereavement support in palliative care was produced. The report was primarily informed by a cross-sectional national survey assessing the current state of bereavement support provision and related factors within Australian palliative care services. The survey was completed by 180 services (84% response rate). Data were analysed at the metropolitan and regional / remote level and used to develop three case studies (supplemented by a small number of in-depth semi-structured interviews with representatives of palliative care services, Primary Health Networks and Local Health Districts in metropolitan, regional and remote geographic areas across Australia). A workshop was also held with a small group of experts in bereavement support from the palliative care and primary care sectors which provided an opportunity to test assumptions underpinning data analysis and to explore perceived service gaps and corresponding policy implications.

For sub-project 3, an issues brief exploring stakeholder views and evidence relating to bereavement support for carers was completed. The brief was based on semi-structured interviews with representatives of peak carer organisations, conducted to collect information on current bereavement pathways and services for carers and to identify unmet needs and service gaps. Additionally, a targeted review of the intervention literature was completed to further investigate effective ways to support carers prior to, during and after bereavement.

In early 2018 the overall results were presented to representatives of the Australian Government, with emerging policy and program implications discussed with key Departmental officers from the Palliative Care Section of the Department of Health.  


Project team: Cristina Thompson, Kate Williams, Conrad Kobel and Darcy Morris

Last reviewed: 8 August, 2018

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