The experience of bereavement for individuals with learning disabilities : a qualitative study
The aim of the investigation was to explore with individuals with learning disabilities their experiences of bereavement. Little research has been carried out in this area, and of the projects that have investigated bereavement in this population many have not involved the individuals with learning disabilities but have relied on carers as informants or have used objective measures of behaviour. This has left a gap in our understanding of the internal experiences for people with learning disabilities following bereavements and has left us unaware of the issues considered most important by the bereaved individuals. Ten interviews were conducted with individuals with learning disabilities who had been bereaved at some point within their memory, although not within the preceding six months. The interviews were transcribed and analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. From the analysis five super-ordinate themes were identified that were thought to capture the essence of the content of the interviews. These themes were Loss, Feelings, Memories of Time Around the Death, Recovery and Obstacles to Recovery. The results indicate the internal experiences associated with bereavement are the same for individuals with learning disabilities as for people without learning disabilities. However, there were experiences described by the participants that appeared to be particular to people with learning disabilities. These experiences were not directly due to their cognitive impairment but due to the way they were responded to by others, and the general beliefs society holds about learning disability. Clinical implications and suggestions for further research were presented.