Extreme close up of senior man talking

Learning about grief in older people

Published: 19 October 2021
  • vic
  • 19 October 2021
  • COTA Victoria

As we get older, we’re more likely to experience the loss of a loved one. Grief is a normal response to this loss. Usually, grief becomes more bearable over time. But sometimes, it remains severe and impairing, developing into prolonged or persistent complex grief. A project of the Melbourne Ageing Research Collaboration aimed to understand how grief affects older people’s health and wellbeing and their use of healthcare services.

Through nationwide interviews and surveys, the project found that most older people felt isolated in their grief. Many had experienced multiple bereavements, and for them, every new loss had the potential to intensify grief by re-awakening memories of previous losses. Rituals and daily reminders of the deceased person helped maintain their loved one’s legacy. As part of the project, participants voiced their feelings of loss through poetry. Local artist Elizabeth Darling created illustrations to accompany the poems.