More elderly people need bereavement counselling, say experts


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Over-85s are more likely to need bereavement support, but aren’t being referred for counselling services.

Research from charity Independent Age shows that fewer than 1 in 5 people over 60 received bereavement counselling after the death of a partner.

The study found that the older you get, the less likely you are to be offered counselling after bereavement.

More than half of those surveyed said that counselling wasn’t of interest to them – despite claims from Independent Age that “the older generation has actually been found to benefit from this kind of therapy more than any other.”

“It’s often assumed that older people have the resilience to cope with loss as a ‘normal’ part of later life,” said bereavement counsellor Petia Richardson. “As a result, they may not be offered bereavement counselling.”

Bereavement counselling is a type of therapy that involves talking to a trained professional in a private, non-judgmental space. Studies show that the vast majority of people (up to 88%) who have counselling say that the process was helpful to their mental and emotional wellbeing.

Older generations are far more likely to experience multiple bereavements in a short space of time, such as losing a partner, relative or friend. Yet Independent Age’s research found that younger people are more willing to reach out for support, and more likely to be referred for bereavement counselling.

In addition, over-85s were more reluctant than any other age group to accept offers of counselling. That means that although they could be the most affected by bereavement, they’re the least likely to get valuable support after a loved one’s death.

“Often the older client explains that they don’t want to be a burden – perhaps this prevents some people from asking for help,” explained Petia. “Some admit to feeling ‘guilty’ for taking up the therapist’s time talking about themselves.”

But the benefits of counselling are numerous. By talking to a trained professional, you can better understand what you’re feeling and get the vital support you need in the weeks and months after bereavement.

Petia added: “Counselling changes lives and can give hope to bereaved older people, helping them to regain purpose and see that they matter and deserve to be as happy as anyone else.”

If you are coping with grief, you can find more information and support on Independent Age’s website, or contact Cruse Bereavement Care, a free, confidential bereavement support service, on 0808 808 1677.


About the author

With a Masters from the University of Bristol, Jessica Hanson has worked in the funeral sector for several years, following the latest industry trends and writing about end of life planning. Jessica has previously written as a blogger for the Huffington Post, covering topics such as death positivity, understanding grief and how funerals are changing. You can find Jessica on LinkedIn and Twitter.