Belgian researchers take part in international study on the impact of the pandemic on bereavement

Belgian researchers take part in international study on the impact of the pandemic on bereavement
Credit: Belga

Some 16% of Belgians have lost a loved one since the Coronavirus pandemic broke out in March 2020, according to La Libre Belgique newspaper, which notes in its Saturday edition that the pandemic and related health measures have had an impact on bereavement practices.

Identifying this impact, the needs of the bereaved during the new situation caused by the pandemic, and helping friends and relatives of the bereaved to adapt their social support are the focus of a new study involving researchers from the Catholic University of Louvain (UCLouvain) and institutions in a number of other countries.

“We are conducting this study to try to have a better understanding of the situation, and our hypothesis is that people have adapted and found alternatives, that new rules have emerged,” UCLouvain Professor Emmanuelle Zech, a specialist in bereavement practices, told La Libre Belgique.

“It’s an international study, done in collaboration with universities in France, Canada, Switzerland, Spain and Portugal,” she said. “Each will come with its specificities, but the common objective is to understand how the context of COVID has influenced rites and how people have experienced their bereavement after that.”

The pandemic and measures taken to curb its spread have had evident implications for people who have lost loved ones. These include not being able to be with their loved ones during their final moments, having to forego gatherings, and being obliged to modify burial ceremonies, according to La Dernière Heure.

“Our hypothesis is that people have adapted and found alternatives, that new rules have emerged,” Professor Zech explained. “This is something new and that makes this study original.”

The Belgian leg of the study, which was scheduled to begin on Saturday, is being conducted in two phases. During the first, anyone who has lost a spouse, companion, sibling or parent and who is willing to respond to questions - both closed and open ones - is invited to fill in a questionnaire, which is available at www.uclouvain.be/etude-deuil.

“We are looking for diversity in the broadest sense of the word,” said Professor Zech, who is accompanied in the study by UCLouvain doctoral student Camille Boever. The second phase will be launched in six months.

“Between the two phases, we shall contact respondents who agree to do individual interviews in order to finetune our research,” the UCLouvain specialist said.


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