Family members of patients who die in an intensive care unit (ICU) may experience negative outcomes. However, few studies have assessed the effectiveness of bereavement care for families.


To evaluate the effectiveness of bereavement follow-up on family members’ anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress, prolonged grief, and satisfaction with care.


A cross-sectional, prospective pilot study of 40 family members of patients who died in 2 tertiary care ICUs. Those in the medical-surgical ICU received bereavement follow-up (bereavement group); those in the cardiac ICU received standard care (nonbereavement group). Both groups completed surveys 13 months after the death. Surveys included the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, Impact of Event Scale-Revised, Family Satisfaction With Care in the Intensive Care Unit, Prolonged Grief Disorder, and a bereavement survey.


Of 30 family members in the bereavement group and 10 in the nonbereavement group, most were female and spouses, with a mean (SD) age of 60.1 (13.3) years. Significantly more participants in the nonbereavement group than in the bereavement group had prolonged grief. Posttraumatic stress, anxiety, depression, and satisfaction with care were not significantly different in the 2 groups. However, overall posttraumatic stress scores were higher in the nonbereavement group than the bereavement group, indicating a higher risk of posttraumatic stress disorder.


Bereavement follow-up after an ICU death reduced family members’ prolonged grief and may also reduce their risk of posttraumatic stress disorder. This type of support did not have a measurable effect on depression or satisfaction with ICU care.

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