The purpose of this assignment is to explore the sudden death of individuals admitted to an intensive care unit, and the impact this has on their families and friends. It is also the objective of this assignment to explore the counselling services available to the families of the bereaved at the time of death and immediately afterward, and how these may assist the grieving process. References made to the clinical area refer mainly to that with which the author has had experience.
Intensive care units derived from the polio epidemic of the early 1950`s and have subsequently developed to incorporate cardiovascular, neurological and multi organ failure care for critically ill adults and children. They are very technical areas and contain equipment and drugs designed to augment or replace normal physiological functions, and the patients are cared for by highly skilled nurses and doctors trained in the administration of such care.
By the very nature of the types of conditions commonplace in intensive care units, it is an accepted fact that a significant percentage of people admitted to such units will not survive. It is possible to prepare relatives of critically ill people for an imminent death if this is anticipated, but frequently the death can come very soon after admission, or result from an unforeseen complication, much as on any other ward.
It is these sudden deaths, which can result in a protracted, and abnormal grief reaction, especially if the death was violent or traumatic. This view is supported by Gross (1992) who suggests that it is more likely to lead to pathological (abnormal) grieving, a view also endorsed by Wright (1991). Pathological or abnormal grief occurs when the grieving process takes much longer than normal, or when an individual gets "Trapped" in one part of the grieving process (Parkes...