By On February 2nd, 2007

Compassion and Attentiveness Help Grieving Families Cope with Loss

A recent study preformed by Alexandre Laurette, MD and colleagues at Saint-Louis Hospital found that compassion, listening and validating a person’s feelings of loss, ease the grief over the loss of a loved one. The study compared two different methods of dealing with families that had experienced the death of a loved one. The first method, which was used as a control for the study, was a conventional ICU family conference. The second method, described as a formalized family intervention, incorporated more listening and feedback from family members. Participants in the formalized family intervention were given a brochure on bereavement and were asked to come to a conference which surrounded five objectives. The objectives were represented by the acronym VALUE which stands for:

Value and appreciate what the family members said.

Acknowledge the emotions of family members.


Understand, by asking questions “who the patient was as a person.”

Elicit questions from family members.

The study found that patients that took part in the formalized intervention had lower levels of depression, anxiety and PTSD. The following is an excerpt of an article from Med Page Today that discusses the study in depth:

Dr. Laurette and colleagues found that three months after the death of a loved one, those family members who were went through the formalized process had lower levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, anxiety, and depression and were better able to cope with their loss.

“A proactive strategy for routine end-of-life family conferences that included provision of a brochure on bereavement, as compared with customary practice, resulted in longer meetings in which families had more opportunities to speak and to express emotions, felt more supported in making difficult decisions, experienced more relief from guilt, and were more likely to accept realistic goals of care,” the investigators wrote in the Feb. 1 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

In an accompanying editorial, Craig M. Lilly, M.D., of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, and Barbara J. Daly, Ph.D, R.N., of Case Western University in Cleveland, applauded the authors for taking a scientific approach to a hard-to-quantify subject.

Click here to read the entire article

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