Primary care providers' bereavement care practices: recommendations for research directions

Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2014 Dec;29(12):1221-9. doi: 10.1002/gps.4157. Epub 2014 Jun 23.


Objective: Bereaved patients are often seen in primary care settings. Although most do not require formal support, physicians may be called upon to provide support to some bereaved, particularly those with bereavement-related mental health disorders like complicated grief and bereavement-related depression. Research evidence on physician bereavement care is scant. We make recommendations for future research in this area.

Design: Literature review focuses on studies conducted between 1996 and 2013 in the United States. Searches of Medline and PsychInfo, along with hand searches of reference sections, were conducted.

Results: The limited existing research indicates substantial gaps in the research literature, especially in the areas of primary care physician skill and capacity, patient-level outcomes, and the quality of research methodology. No US studies have focused specifically on care for bereavement-related mental health disorders. We provide recommendations about how to improve research about primary care bereavement care.

Conclusions: The primary care sector offers ample opportunities for research on bereavement care. With greater research efforts, there may be improvements to quality of bereavement care in primary care, in general, and also to the accurate detection and appropriate referral for bereavement-related mental health conditions.

Keywords: bereavement; bereavement-related depression; complicated grief; mental health; primary care; research recommendations; review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bereavement*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Grief*
  • Humans
  • Physician's Role*
  • Primary Health Care / standards*
  • United States