Issues in aging

October 2010


Surviving spousal bereavement

Insights for GPs

Volume 39, No.10, October 2010 Pages 780-783

Pam McGrath

Hamish Holewa

Meg McNaught


Spousal bereavement is documented as a highly stressful event. This article presents findings from research that explored bereavement survivors’ perspectives on what support factors were most helpful to them.


A qualitative telephone survey was conducted with caregiver spouses of Cittamani Hospice Service clients who died during 2005 and 2006.


Partner loss results in significant grief; the initial period is most intense but the grieving continues over a long period. Factors identified as assisting bereaved spouses include: hospice bereavement assistance provided before, during and following the bereavement; having a support network, including both informal support networks and formal support from general practitioners; and keeping active and busy.


General practitioners play an important role in bereavement care. Key factors assisting bereavement survivors include appropriate referral to palliative care, maintaining a supportive informal network and keeping busy.

There is now an established literature indicating increased mortality is associated with individuals who have experienced a significant bereavement.1 For the purpose of this article, the definition of bereavement by Stroebe et al2 will be used, which is, 'having recently lost a significant person through death'.

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