Supporting Significant Life Events

In life, every person experiences moments of significant life events that could be traumatizing. The life events could interfere with the daily way of living and the social life of the individual. The persons take the circumstances as great life tragedies, or severely stressful moments (Harvey and Weber, 1998). A situation is taken as a loss when it impacts negatively on the persons involved and leads to changes that the affected person must adopt. Although the death of a person is the situation mostly seen as a loss, there are many others. Other types of losses could include losing a job, losing a physiological function of a part of the body, and separation with the loved one, for example, a spouse. Bereavement is a painful life event that happens in people’s lives. Death causes a lot of stress and instability in the individuals involved. As a result, proper responses and strong support system are vital to help the individual overcome the situation. Social networks should be formed from the internal and external sources to facilitate recovery of the grieving individuals. Health professionals in the hospital set up are, in most cases, the first contact with the bereaved persons. For instance, in the case study, the nurse was there when George’s mother passed on.

Task 1

1.1 Physical, Psychological and Social Impact of Bereavement on the Bereaved Person

Despite the fact that bereavement is considered a usual significant life event, it can lead to various physical, psychological and social impacts on the individuals involved. The impact is usually not good. Physically, the bereaved person will tend to experience physiological changes such as lack of sleep, loss of appetite, and digestive disorders. In case the person was suffering from an illness, the disease tends to worsen at the time of grieving. The bereaved individual may begin to experience new signs and symptoms during the time of grief, such as, constantly recurrent headaches and frequent fatigue. Murray (2000, p.122) found out that grief caused by loss of a loved one can lead to decreased immunity of the individual affected.

Death causes severe psychological effects on the bereaved individual. The effect of the loss will vary on the basis of the relationship between the dead person and the bereaved. First, the individual fails to accept the event. As in the case study, George cannot believe that his mother has died, and she will be no more. With the stress of taking care of his young family and looking after the mother in the hospital, George is likely to question why his mother passed on. Thereafter, the bereaved starts to feel angry at the whole situation. The individual gets angry at the heath workers thinking that they did not do enough to prevent the death of their loved one. George is likely to feel angry at self for, not visiting his mother for about six months until she was very sick. As the days pass by and the reality of the death dawns on the individual, they begin to be overwhelmed with a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness (Stroebe et al. 2001). Depression takes control of the bereaved, and they lose their psychological stability. Every activity or involvement in their lives becomes a source of stress.

Death interferes with the social status of the individual experiencing loss. The individual tends to get easily irritated by the people who stay with them. The person is sorrowful and thus tends to withdraw from most of the social activities. As the bereaved retreats, they stop attending work, and other social gatherings. The attachments that were there with the dead person leave painful memories in the life of the individual. The person remains with a void that could take a long time before it is filled. In the case study, George dearly misses his mother and wishes she could come back to life. The bereaved person is forced to take up the various social responsibilities that the dead person was doing. The new responsibilities are likely to weigh heavily on the individual.

1.2 Possible Group Responses to Bereavement

Different age groups will respond differently to an event of death. As for the young children from the age of one to about ten years, they do not understand about death. As a result, children will respond in relation to the reaction of the older individuals. Since they do not understand the permanence of death, they will keep asking when the dead person will come back. When the children see the older relatives grieving in sorrow, they tend to feel insecure, and  worry about their safety and that of others. The kids will thus tend to cling more to their parents and cry a lot.

For older children between the age of ten and sixteen, they will not have a clear understanding of what death is but they will be aware of its permanence. The kids will constantly enquire from older individuals questions concerning the dead person. The questions are likely to focus on where the body of the dead person will go. The group will tend to understand the sorrow and grief the older people are going through and hence try to please them in whatever they do. The kid will tend to refuse to go to school, think deeply about the death, feel angry and as they sleep, have dreams of the loss.

The next group is that of individuals who are sixteen years and above. The comprehension of the loss of a person and their reaction to the loss is clearer. In the event death, they will grieve with their relatives. Concurrently, they will start making funeral preparations. They will take up various responsibilities left by the dead person. Although older persons have better coping skills in response to bereavement, the impact of the loss lasts longer in their lives.

1.3 Impact on Others in Health and Social Care When an Individual is Bereaved

Death affects the bereaved person, the health workers directly involved with the individual and other people within the social circle. For the health care workers, an event of loss is greatly saddening. The loss makes the health professionals with a difficult task of disclosing the death to the relatives and comforting them. Health workers are forced to answer difficult questions from relatives on why their patient had to die. The social workers while interacting with the bereaved person find it difficult to fit in the shoes of the bereaved and to comfort them in the difficult moment.

Task 2

2.1 Effectiveness of Organizational Policies and procedures in Supporting Bereaved Individuals

Every organization has a set of policies and procedures set to support the bereaved individuals in the organization. The procedures are meant to support the person experiencing the loss before, through and after the bereavement. All organizations should follow this model to hasten the adapting process of the bereaved (Davydov & Stewart, 2010, p. 483). When an individual in an organization loses their loved one, the management should make use of the set guidelines and accord total support to the person. In the case study, George’s mother was suffering from the last stages of cancer and the nurse was aware that she would soon die. The nurse, as a result, should have started preparing George early enough. Organizational policies involve assessing the situation that resulted in loss, assessing the bereaved person and taking appropriate measures to support the individual. The case study states that the nurse had observed Mrs. Gary dying. The nurse should then have prepared George in advance. When the death occurred, the nurse should have looked for a private place in which to disclose the information to George so as to allow him to express himself freely. Currier & Neimeyer (2008, p. 655) found out that health workers should strictly observe honesty and respect for the beliefs and culture of the bereaved throughout the support process. When the people follow the  policies and procedures properly, the bereaved receives proper social support and hence can cope with the impact of the loss within a short time. Policies and procedures are thus very effective in supporting bereaved individuals.

2.2 How Individuals in Social Networks Provide Support to Bereaved Individuals

Individuals in the social network of a bereaved person include friends, family members, social support groups, religious groups and colleagues at work (Kissane & Block, 2002). Friends, relatives, religious groups and social support groups have important roles to play in supporting the bereaved person.  The social network provides great help in coping with the loss. Friends can give a listening ear to the person experiencing a loss. The colleagues at work can take up responsibilities of the bereaved and give them a break to mourn the loss and time for recovery. The work-mates can also contribute some money to support the bereaved family financially. As in the case study, everyone at the school where Mrs. Gary was teaching were able to support George financially. Religious organizations and social support groups can help the person experiencing the loss answer various questions that they may have. The social support groups also help the bereaved individual to cope with the various changes that are likely to occur after the bereavement.

2.3 Suitability of External Sources of Support Available for Bereaved Individuals

During the moments of loss, different persons tend to respond differently to the grief process. The support mechanisms applied should, for this reason, suit the individual need of the bereaved (Hudson  & Remedios, 2010). Some people cope with changes after a loss faster while others experience severe physical and mental effects. For the persons who are not able to internal sources of support, they require to be connected to external sources of support. The external support involves regular counseling sessions of the bereaved by professional or attending sessions of psychotherapy by a professional psychiatrist (Davydov & Stewart 2010). External support is most suitable for individuals who are not able to successfully go through the stages of grief to acceptance and hence have developed suicidal thoughts.

Task 3

3.1 Possible Organizational Responses to the Need to Support Individuals Experiencing Significant Life Event

Occurrence of significant life events is inevitable within the organization. The events are usually sudden, unplanned and traumatizing. Some of the events that could occur include sudden death of an employee or their relatives, mass destruction of property within the organization or a natural catastrophe. The organizational response is important in determining how fast the affected persons will cope with the loss. The organization can take different actions in response to significant life events. First response can be to form social support groups within the organization. In addition, the organization can facilitate efficient communication systems especially in the case of emergency (Murillo & Holland, 2004). The organization can convene bereavement meetings in which the members will share opinions and encouragement with the bereaved. Financial contributions can also be used to help the bereaved individual. The people who were working with Mrs. Gary responded to her death by contributing money to support the funeral activity. George mobilized the colleagues of his mother to take part in educating everyone in the school about the cancer. Organizations should also ensure that they have a counselor who is available to take care of psychological needs of the employees. Usually, after a significant life event, the people are stressed up and psychologically disturbed, and the problem can last for a long period Boelen & Prigerson, 2007, p. 447). Due to the situation, the employees lose focus at work and tend to deliver below the expectation. The management of the organization should, for this reason, concentrate on improving the coping mechanism of their employees when they experience loss. .

3.2 Personal Contributions as a Health and Social Professional to the Support of Individuals Experiencing Significant Life Events

As a health professional, I have a lot of responsibilities in supporting individuals experiencing significant life events. The daily routine of a health care worker is about interacting with many patients in the hospital set up. For instance, it is in the hospital that new life comes to being and other people lose their lives. Mrs. Gary lost her life when the nurse was present. There are, as a result, many roles that I can play to support persons experiencing significant life events.

First, I will prepare the individuals for the occurrence of the situation if death is predictable. For example, in a patient who is in their last stages of life following a terminal disease, the family needs to be mentally, socially and physically prepared for the loss. I will, for this reason, explain to the patient in due truthfulness and respect. I will then encourage the individual to join a social group of persons undergoing palliative care. When the patient dies, I will take the bereaved through counseling and encourage friends and relatives to offer social support to the individual.

On one occasion, my colleague lost her husband suddenly just after admission. I made sure all the workers received communication about the loss we had experienced. I then facilitated formation of a committee that was to foresee that someone has taken care of the responsibilities of the funeral and burial preparations. The committee also oversees the contribution of funds to facilitate the funeral arrangements. As colleagues, we ensured that at least every day there was one person spending time at the home of our colleague to offer support and company.

The employee gets a break from work and her responsibilities are shared among us. Every evening, we would ensure that we attend prayers and fellowship at the home of the bereaved to facilitate the healing process. Having meeting by which we can share experiences of how our colleague can cope with the loss and adapt to the changes likely to occur will be therapeutic. After the period of bereavement, I will try to engage my colleague in the various hospital activity to help her avoid thinking so much about the loss. Being active helps overcome loneliness.

3.3 Recommendations for Improving the Support Available in a Care Home for Residents and Social Networks When Affected by Significant Life Events such as Bereavement

When a significant life event happens in a Care Home, it affects many people. As a result, the impact is felt by every person staying in the home and managing the grief becomes quite complicated. In case one person dies, the management has a great task of offering support to the family members of the dead person and also to the people staying at the Care Home. I would thus recommend that the management puts in place clear policies and procedures that will guide the bereavement process.

The home should also ensure that the home has professional counselor responsible for handling stressful situations that the members go through. During the loss, the counselor helps the members to embrace coping mechanisms and to manage the psychological effects. The home should also form social support groups whereby the members can meet and share coping mechanisms.

Establishing a stable and reliable religious culture is important in managing grief and bereavement. When grieving individuals are at the bargaining stage, religion tends to answer most of the bereaved questions. Religious beliefs give hope to the bereaved and hasten the healing process by helping them to accept the loss.

I would also recommend that the management educates everyone living in the home about bereavement and the grief process. The education will ensure the people appreciate what one experiences after loss and hence facilitate the steps leading to acceptance.

When bereavement occurs, the bereaved usually undergo stressful moments. The stress results because loss leads to a lot of needs and responsibilities unattended. In the case in which the sole breadwinner passes on, the dependants become helpless. Working out to meet the various needs tends to overwhelm the bereaved.

The leadership should also inform the persons living in the home about the various insurance policies that handle end of life care and support the dependents. If the people subscribe to insurance while alive, in the case of loss, the insurance will take care of most of the deficiencies. The families will, as a result, have a peaceful time of mourning and grieving their loved one since other needs will have been sorted.


The essay has discussed the support systems relevant for significant life events. We realize that significant life events can occur in many forms. Death of a loved one, physical separation of close relatives, or a tragic event is a significant life event. A reliable support system is required to help the affected individuals to overcome the loss. The people making up the support system include the health care workers, social workers, friends, relatives, and colleagues. The event of death affects both the bereaved individuals, and  the people associated with them. The responses of the social support group will greatly affect how the bereaved will respond following the loss. A strong and supportive social group will help the bereaved to cope faster and adapt to the changes associated with the loss. Various groups within the society respond variably to the event of loss. A person should thus pay close attention to the particular group in order to give appropriate support.

Some individuals experiencing loss do not respond to internal support. The experience of loss can be so severe that it breaks down the person’s mental status. When it gets to a point that the bereaved cannot resume normal duties, internal support is not enough. The individual should seek external support to help them cope with the loss. Every organization should ensure they have the policies that will support the worker’s personal welfare especially in the event of a loss. The organizations should strictly adhere to the guidelines and recommendations made by the state on how to treat employees after experiencing a significant life event.



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