“They’re going to die at some point, but we’re all going to die” – a qualitative exploration of bereavement in later life

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This article reports on a qualitative study to investigate what bereavement means to older people. Drawing upon 80 in-depth interviews collected from eight British and Australian retirement communities, our study revealed that facing bereavement while ageing includes experiences of losing both others and the wholeness of the self. Core themes identified how the experience of losing others can be compounded by ageing-related challenges, undermining older people’s defence from bereavement and frustrating their fundamental meaning and being. The older people’s dynamic responses were also captured, highlighting the importance of supporting their agency to deal with the deeper pain of loss. By extending the concept of bereavement in later life, we also called for a more grief literate culture to mitigate the multifaceted and often deeper distresses of bereavement that older people may face alongside ageing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)857-875
Number of pages19
JournalOmega: The Journal of Death and Dying
Issue number3
Early online date25 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 29 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This project was supported by a research grant (RE-ED1100) from Guild Living Ltd The authors confirm that the funder played no role in the design, execution, analysis and interpretation of data, or writing of the study.


  • ageing
  • bereavement
  • existential distress
  • grief literacy
  • relational loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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