What can we do to create supportive spaces for bereaved families?

Even when a patient’s journey ends, for those who are left behind, another journey is just about to begin. It’s by no means an easy one, which is why it’s so important for those first few steps to be made as comfortable as possible and for the family who are just beginning to come to terms with the loss of a loved one to feel as supported as they can be, even though it will inevitably feel like their world has been turned upside down.

Of course, within a hospital, they will be surrounded by healthcare professionals who can offer them the support that they need. As well as this though, the place where they experience the start of this new, uncertain path should be able to offer support to them as they take their tentative first steps through the grieving process.

Quiet Rooms and Relative Rooms

Away from the main ward, quiet rooms and relative rooms are often used for a variety of purposes. Sometimes they’re places for patients to receive a little respite and privacy from their bed on a busy ward, but often they become the place where families and relatives are given the difficult news, by doctors or other members of the medical team, that their loved one won’t be coming home.

Hospitals often recognise the need for spaces like relative rooms but, more often than not, they lack the provisions and space on wards to make these rooms what they need to be: comfortable, dedicated and, most of all, private.

Receiving the news that they have, or will, lose a loved one is an experience that families will never forget and, for that reason, it’s important that their surroundings are comfortable yet, at the same time, unmemorable. The space in which they receive such sensitive news shouldn’t be the thing that they remember most vividly, if at all, and while creating rooms that are unmemorable is important, it’s also important that they’re also not remembered for being uncomfortable, makeshift or insensitive, either.

Bereavement Rooms

Saying goodbye to a loved one is one of the most important parts of the grieving process and, while being far from the easiest thing to do, families should be given the space and time to do this in a peaceful environment where they feel comfortable and supported.

One of the main differences between bereavement rooms and other spaces that are dedicated to end-of-life care is that the clinical function can be stripped away in its entirety and replaced with provisions that are focused on making the space a safe haven for families to say their final goodbyes and take the first steps in coming to terms with the loss of their loved one.

What can we do to create environments that are supportive to families who are coming to terms with a loss?

Much like with the relative rooms and quiet rooms, the first thing we need to ensure is that we create a space that is as unmemorable as possible. Despite how this may sound, this doesn’t mean bare walls and minimal furniture.

Soft colour scheme

One of the most important elements of a room designed to be comforting and reassuring is the colour scheme. It provides the backdrop to the rest of the fixtures and fittings that make the room a sanctuary and is one of the first things that we consider.

In bereavement rooms and quiet spaces, we often use a colour scheme which is unobtrusive and reassuring, void of garish bright colours that instead make way for softer, muted tones. Removing loud colours not only removes a visual stimulus which can be stressful for families already dealing with one of the most stressful situations imaginable, but it also goes a long way to making the room unmemorable; a soft, duck egg blue is much less likely to stick in the mind than a deep, vibrant teal.

Specially selected Wall Art

We carefully choose the Wall Art and other artwork that becomes part of a space that is used by those who are going through such a sensitive emotional process as grief.

Tranquil images that are inspired by nature are often installed; research shows that they can provide comfort and reassurance to both patients and families on the end-of-life journey. Another important consideration when we select Wall Art is for the images within it to be as abstract as possible so that families don’t associate elements within it with their grief either now or in the future, subconsciously or otherwise.

Furnishings that feel comforting

When a bereavement room can be stripped of its clinical function, sometimes the clinical feel doesn’t get stripped away at the same time. Often, it is the standard hospital furniture and familiar fluorescent lighting that contributes to it retaining this feel.

By replacing hospital chairs with more homely sofas and armchairs, and removing fluorescent strip lights to put spot lamps with warm white bulbs in their place, we can create a more comforting atmosphere that will help to support the people who are using the space to say goodbye.

Losing a loved one will never be easy and little will feel of comfort to families who are experiencing such a huge loss and dealing with the emotional impact that that has upon them both collectively and as individuals. By providing a space which can become a private retreat for them to come to terms with what has happened and to say their final goodbyes, we can at least make these first steps of the grieving process that little bit less difficult for them, even if we can’t take the pain away entirely.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you create an environment that will support bereaved families within your hospital, please get in touch.