Bereavement committees

About bereavement committees

Perinatal bereavement committees may be useful in hospital or community settings where pregnancy and infant loss occurs.

Bereavement committees may assist with:

  • Establishing hospital provisions or processes related to perinatal loss
  • Staff education
  • Development of knowledge communities
  • Development of programs or processes related to memory making and supporting bereaved families
  • Creation of best practice guidelines that take local resources and traditions into account

Bereavement committee membership may consist of:

  • Health-care professionals
  • Allied health professionals
  • Spiritual care professionals
  • Community leaders or elders
  • Bereaved families
  • Hospital administrators or staff
  • Public or community health professionals

Learn more about the role bereavement committees play, and tips for establishing a committee, below.

Establishing hospital provisions or processes

The bereavement committee may choose to discuss details surrounding the provision of hospital services following a patient’s pregnancy or infant loss. They may also discuss relevant processes and ways to make improvements or to ensure compassionate, informed and skilled care.

Ideas include:

  • Morgue processes
  • Working with funeral homes
  • Necessary paperwork associated with a death
  • Bereavement checklists or care pathways for staff
  • Cultural or local considerations for bereavement care
  • Assessment of handouts, resources or information given to parents after loss (in emergency department, maternity unit, etc.)
  • Providing appropriate spaces for families to spend time with their babies
  • Stocking of bereavement equipment and supplies
  • Ideas for development of community partnerships or donations (volunteers to make up bereavement boxes, donations of plaster for hand and foot prints, donation of bereavement kit supplies, etc.)
  • Planning of memorial events (i.e. annual remembrance ceremony)
  • Ideas for involvement of bereaved families (satisfaction survey, involvement in staff education, etc.)
  • Communication about the provision of bereavement care within organizations or communities
Staff education

Bereavement committees can assess and evaluate staff educational needs and provide support and education to professionals working with families who experience perinatal loss. In many cases, bereavement committee members act as a knowledge community and reference for other staff members and organizations providing care or services to families experiencing perinatal loss. Bereavement committee members may also act as mentors at the time of loss, as colleagues may not have provided this type of bereavement care in the past.

Memory making

It is helpful to have a group of professionals who know and understand how to create lasting memories for parents. Bereavement committees can lead the development of strategies and processes to support this important work.

Ideas include:

  • Photography
  • Birth, baptism, and death certificates
  • Foot and handprints or moulds (made from dental stone and alginate)
  • Families assisting with bathing and dressing their baby
  • Bereavement boxes or kits
  • Blessings, baptisms, ceremonies or other traditions

In many places, the bereavement committee is linked to the volunteers who provide support in other various ways, including:

  • Making hand-knitted hats, booties, mittens and special blankets
  • Making outfits in various sizes for all stages of pregnancy and infant loss
  • Making bereavement boxes or kits (hat, blanket, certificate of birth/death, etc.)
  • Other opportunities where they can support staff providing bereavement care, including fundraising

For more tips and resources on establishing a bereavement committee for your organization, contact us at pailnetwork@sunnybrook.ca