Making change in grief and bereavement literacy and support: PCPCRC member Joshua Black, Ph.D.

With over 100 investigators, healthcare providers, trainees, community and policy stakeholders, and patient and family partner members, the Pan-Canadian Palliative Care Research Collaborative is a network of practice-focused research groups aiming to produce high-quality palliative care research.

Our members have a passion for research and are looking to be actively involved in a palliative care research network. They come from many disciplines and include patients, caregivers, trainees, policy makers, clinicians, and researchers.

Joshua Black, Ph.D. is the Bereavement Initiative Manager at the BC Centre for Palliative Care (BCCPC) and host of the Grief Dreams Podcast. He became involved in supporting the bereaved by volunteering at a hospice following the death of his father. Black found that those bereaved individuals had many questions about their dreams, and he was “motivated to help provide them with some answers to those questions.” Wanting to take on research on dreaming of the deceased, Black returned to school. “I have found working in this space very meaningful to my life,” he says, “and the lives of others I want to continue to support.” He joined the PCPCRC upon the recommendation of his colleagues at the BCCPC, who spoke of the benefits of joining and the funding opportunities for research.

Black went on to be awarded funding in the second round of the PCPCRC’s Seed Funding Competition for his project entitled “Improving the Bereavement Experience Among People Who Are Experiencing Homelessness in BC.” Today, the team has conducted interviews with 80 people with lived experiences of both bereavement and homelessness and is analyzing the data collected. The project, a partnership between the BCCPC and the Kelowna Homelessness Research Collaborative, aims to address the lack of grief supports available for people experiencing homelessness after someone they care about dies. It also fills a research gap with respect to this type of grief among people living within the context of homelessness.

Black is also currently involved in two other projects through the BCCPC. The first aims to improve grief and bereavement literacy for those who serve the bereaved who are experiencing homelessness. The team is working with experts in grief support and education, as well as with people with lived experience, to create and test an online education module focusing on the joint experience of grief and homelessness.

In another project, Black and team are working to implement a BC-wide bereavement action plan, which was collaboratively developed by stakeholders in British Columbia last year and recently released by the BCCPC. He will be organizing working groups made up of grief/bereavement support organizations in BC to start putting into place some of the action items outlined in the plan.

Though Black has found the PCPCRC to be valuable in a number of ways, “the most valuable piece is the encouragement, support, and guidance that I have received in the research I wanted to complete or have completed,” he says. “Being a researcher can be isolating, and it is always nice to have a supportive community that you can feel part of.”

Black aims to continue to serve and raise awareness of those who are bereaved who are not being provided the necessary grief support, at the same time seeing real-world change in the culture on grief and bereavement literacy and support.

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