Points about Bereavement Care

Mental health professionals

As mentioned in other pages of this website, keep in mind that supporting bereaved families in a disaster can be very difficult.


One of the reasons for this is that the length of time and methods of adjusting to loss vary greatly from person to person. Some people recover faster than others, while some people face problems for a long time. They exhibit these problems in a variety of ways, and some people adapt to some activities in a state of “hyperarousal”, while others are “immersed” in grief.


The bereaved move forward little by little in their own way. Some want to be left alone, while others want help from support networks and professionals. Some of the issues they present are not the individual’s, but rather “family related” or “isolation” from the community.


However, in every case and at every phase, bereavement supporters are required to provide the spirit “to understand the person’s harsh experiences and to coordinate the support that responds to their needs, vulnerabilities, and strengths.”  Because the grief experienced by the bereaved in a disaster is intense, painful, complex, and long-lasting, this support needs to be a long-term with follow-ups.


The following are some of the points that need to be considered when supporting the bereaved, especially in the event of a disaster.


1. Explanations of the cause of death must be particularly sensitive. Take into consideration the avoidance of shock as much as possible and providing the right information, which can affect the psychological recovery later on. Therefore, cooperation with the police may be particularly necessary.


2. In a disaster where many people die, families searching for the missing may witness a large number of bodies. This is a risk factor for exacerbating trauma, so care must be taken to ensure that survivors do not have to witness many bodies as can be avoided.  Post-mortem support is also important.


3. The images of the towers collapsing in the 9/11 NY terrorism attack affected many people’s minds. In particular, when an image of such a catastrophe is burned into the minds of the bereaved, the trauma makes it difficult to work on their loss. It is important to keep in mind that loss can often only be brought in conversation with them after a long period of time.


4. Questions about whether the deceased suffered frequently arise from the bereaved. Sometimes it is impossible to answer, but it is relatively easier to cope with the situation, if it is clear that he or she died instantly or became unconscious immediately. Supporters can help the bereaved work on this issue while they tell their “story,” if the supporter provides an empathetic and realistic dialogue and a safe place for the bereaved.


5. If the victim’s body cannot be found, it will be especially difficult for the family to recover.

For more information on how to help in such a case, please visit the Ambiguous Loss Information Website   https://al.jdgs.jp/e_top



* This page was created with reference to the manuscript of “Loss and Grief; Disaster deaths, their implication and management”, specially provided by Dr. Beverley Raphael.