Bereavement Companionship Programme: To help families, friends cope with numbing grief, sense of loss

The idea is for the communities and neighbourhoods to build capacity to support members in grief and strengthen the current informal bereavement support system in Kerala.

Published: 05th July 2021 01:45 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th July 2021 05:38 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The pandemic has snatched the right of the bereaved to grieve properly and come to terms with the loss of a beloved one.

The mourning and grieving have changed during the times of Covid when the bereaved families are isolated from friends and other support systems.

Times like these show the need for a bereavement companion, a community of people who are trained scientifically to handle grief and render support to the bereaved.

With the aim of providing scientific bereavement companionship, a bereavement support programme has kicked off in the state. 

The Bereavement Companionship Programme envisages having at least one person trained in the programme among the first responders in case of a death.

The idea is for the communities and neighbourhoods to build capacity to support members in grief and strengthen the current informal bereavement support system in Kerala.

A one-of-a-kind initiative, the  course is run by Mission Better Tomorrow (MBT) -- Nanma along with the Institute of Palliative Medicine  (IPM), Kozhikode and Death Literacy  Institute, Australia. 

K Suresh Kumar, director, WHO Collaborating Centre, Institute of  Palliative Medicine, says that while many come to terms with grief and overcome it through social structures, the case of pathological grief requires specialist intervention.

“This is more of a life skill. Before Covid, we had community structures in place, which comprised societal  support, religious support and elaborate customs that helped the bereaved deal with grief. But with the onset of Covid, the support system is gone.  We need to have people in the community who are trained and who can  extend support,” says Suresh Kumar. 

The programme was launched in June and the training for the first batch was  completed recently. More than 200 individuals have applied for the programme.

Anyone above the age of 21 can join the course which is of 15-hour duration. The training is given by experts from the Death Literacy Institute.

A certification fee of Rs 100 is charged from participants. 

“The  focus is that if a death were to happen, among the mourners visiting  the homes of the bereaved, at least one person should be able to become a  bereavement companion. Although the decision to start the programme was prompted by Covid, such a support system needs to be in place,  irrespective of whether the death is due to Covid,” says Saif Muhammed, CEO, MBT. 

Anand  Haridas,  writer and content development officer of MBT, said that Covid has reiterated the need to have a proper scientific bereavement  support system.

“The concept is foreign. We didn’t need it until now since  we had a strong community-based support system along with rituals and  customs, which aid the grieving process. Covid changed it all,”  says Anand, who also participated in the programme.  

For joining the course, contact :9995399299

IMHANS to launch programme for professionals

The Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences (IMHANS), Kozhikode, is  set to launch a foundation course in bereavement support for medical professionals.

The programme is meant for psychologists, psychiatrists and psychiatric social workers.

“A small per cent will need professional help while dealing with grief. This will empower the  professionals when the bereaved approach them,” says P Krishna Kumar,  IMHANS director  


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