Researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute are calling for hospitals to establish bereavement programs for families of deceased patients, according to a paper published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine.1

Led by Sue Morris, PsyD, the authors wrote that such programs have the potential to prevent a range of physical and mental health problems by guiding families through the process of mourning a loved one.

Morris and fellow senior author Susan Block, MD, surveyed 815 family members of patients who had died during a 4-month period, with 140 who completed a questionnaire after receiving a condolence letter on behalf of the cancer center, as well as a bereavement guide written by Morris that informs them on what to expect during the grieving process.

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In total, 69% said that the condolence letter they received had a positive or somewhat positive effect on the grieving process, while 72% said that the bereavement guide was beneficial.

“While most people adjust to the loss of a loved one over time, it’s estimated that 10 to 20% develop dysfunctional bereavement, which can lead to problems such as depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse, and, potentially, to physical problems such as hypertension and heart disease,” Block said.

Morris noted that by providing people with information and support, it may help families to avoid more harmful consequences of prolonged grief.


1. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Researchers call for hospitals to establish bereavement programs [news release]. EurekAlert! web site. Published November 11, 2015. Accessed November 12, 2015.