Griefwork with Older Adults


Many older adults experienced multiple losses within a short span of time. These include the loss of significant others through death or divorce, loss of sensory or functional abilities, loss of pet, loss of an important social role/parental control as children leave home, or of jobs and social status as a result of retirement. For some older adults, retirement also represents the loss of roles, social networks, financial independence and possibly self-esteem.

Grief is a normal and natural response to a painful loss. Grief is not only an emotional experience. It is also a physical, social, intellectual and spiritual experience. It affects a person’s feelings and behaviour.

Although grief during old age may be a result of some of the bio-psychosocial problems cited above, much of grief work with older adults is carried out with those who had lost their significant others. Many older adults seeking help for psychological problems have lost several of their significant others in the preceding months or years. Loss of loved ones, even those with long-standing illnesses is considered by older adults as tragic, difficult to accept because of the long standing relationships. Those who have lost adult children find it particularly painful as it is regarded as untimely.

Older adults who have experienced multiple losses may emerge stronger emotionally, as grief may have a steeling effect on them. On the other hand, the multiple losses they experienced may also have a demoralizing effect on them. It is therefore very important to follow-up on bereaved elderly, as they may become depressed or even suicidal, especially for those who perceive their future to be very limited.

This two-day workshop will equip participants with the knowledge of the theories and process of grief, as well as the key competencies to provide griefwork and support to older persons who have suffered or expecting to suffer various types of losses. It will also present the risk factors for complicated grief, as well as intervention strategies.

Target Participants

  • Counsellors, therapists, case managers, social workers, nurses and volunteers who work with the elderly
  • Participants should possess some basic counselling skills

Course Objectives

Upon completion of the course, participants will be able to:

  • Understand the grief process and how grief in old age is different from grief in younger ages
  • Apply appropriate skills in counselling and supporting grieving elderly
  • Identify the risk factors for complicated grief
  • Make necessary referrals to appropriate agencies for further management

Course Outlines

  • Loss, grief and bereavement in the elderly – how it differs from other age-groups
  • Empirical research on current theories and models of grief
  • Grief process in older persons
  • Grief counselling skills
  • Difference between grief and depression
  • Identifying risk factors for complicated grief
  • Counselling the terminally ill
  • Anticipatory grief
  • End of life decision-making
  • Advance care planning
  • Truth-telling
  • Death and dying
  • Intervention modalities
  • Community and professional organisations supporting bereaved individuals & referral
  • Professional self-care

Course Duration

Two days