It is the 'starting over' part that is so hard: Using an online group to support hospice bereavement

Elaine Wittenberg-Lyles*, Karla Washington, Debra Parker Oliver, Sara Shaunfield, L. Ashley Gage, Megan Mooney, Alexandria Lewis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objective: Although hospice agencies are required to provide informal caregivers (family or friends of the patient) with formal bereavement support when their loved one passes, most bereavement interventions lack standardization and remain untested. We employed the Dual Processing Model of Bereavement as a theoretical framework for assessing the potential of a secret Facebook group for bereaved hospice caregivers. Method: A mixed-methods approach was utilized to analyze online communication (posts and comments) in the secret Facebook group, and self-reported outcome measures on depression and anxiety were compared pre- and post-intervention. Results: Sixteen caregivers participated in the secret Facebook group over a period of nine months. The majority of online talk was oriented to restoration, revealing abrupt and anticipated triggers that evoked feelings of loss. Caregivers also shared loss orientation through storytelling, sharing and giving advice, and encouraging others to manage the challenges of coping. Caregiver anxiety and depression were lower after the intervention. Significance of Results: This pilot study provides insight into the use of a secret Facebook group to facilitate bereavement support to caregivers. Findings highlight the promise of Facebook for hospice bereavement support. Providers and researchers are encouraged to explore the positive outcomes associated with bereavement support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-357
Number of pages7
JournalPalliative and Supportive Care
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


  • Bereavement
  • Caregivers
  • Hospice
  • Internet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • General Nursing


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