Bereavement in the context of homelessness

When BCCPC began its research into grief and bereavement supports in BC, we soon discovered that there was a particular population about which there had been very little inquiry: people experiencing homelessness. As the calendar rolled over into 2024, two new initiatives are in progress to learn more about how this population experiences bereavement and how we can build grief and bereavement literacy among those who support this population.

Fostering Grief and Bereavement Literacy for those who work with people experiencing homelessness

In another fruitful research partnership, BCCPC and the Victoria Cool Aid Society have been awarded a REACH 2023 Award by Michael Smith Health Research BC. These awards support health researchers and research users to engage in meaningful collaboration to co-create relevant and impactful research for people such as patients, health practitioners and policymakers.

Our project, Fostering Grief and Bereavement Literacy in the Workplace for Those Who Serve People Experiencing Homelessness, recognizes that a common grief support for people experiencing homelessness is frontline workers. However, recent research found that frontline workers are commonly not provided grief and bereavement support training, and their own work-related grief after a client dies is largely unsupported. On top of this, our survey of frontline workers in BC, almost all expressed a desire to increase their knowledge of grief and bereavement.

Our project aims to improve grief and bereavement knowledge and support skills and ultimately enhance grief and bereavement literacy for frontline workers and improve their abilities to provide better grief support to their clients who are experiencing homelessness.

The project includes two steps:

  1. Co-creating and testing an online grief and bereavement education module and resources with a working group of community-based organizations, subject matter experts, and public partners
  2. Launching the developed module and resources through a symposium and, with experts in the field, exploring ways to make them more accessible for frontline workers.

Improving the bereavement experience among people experiencing homelessness in BC

In partnership with the Kelowna Homelessness Research Centre (KHRC), we have finished collecting data for this project, including 80 in-person interviews with people with lived experience of bereavement in the context of homelessness (40 interviews from Kelowna in July 2023 and 40 interviews from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in December 2023).

The goal of this research is to better understand their bereavement experiences and their thoughts on what can be done better in providing bereavement support. BCCPC and KHRC now turn our attention to analyzing the data collected.

We want to thank everyone who participated in the research and trusted us enough to share their stories and thoughts. Also, we want to thank all those who supported the project and data collection and helped share the details of the study within their community.

This project has been funded in part by a contribution from Health Canada, Health Care Policy and Strategies Program through the Pan-Canadian Palliative Care Research Collaborative Seed Grants program, and the University of British Columbia Okanagan Eminence program. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Health Canada or the University of British Columbia.

For more information: please contact Joshua Black, project manager (BCCPC) at or Stephanie Laing, Director of Operations (KHRC) at

DTES research team in December 2023 (R to L: Bethany Presley (BCCPC), Joshua Black (BCCPC), Stephanie Laing (KHRC), Sherry Landry (BCCPC), and Jody Monk (BCCPC)

Sherry Landry (our peer researcher at the BCCPC) spoke about being an interviewer in the project (Kelowna and Vancouver) and what it meant to her after the recent passing of her father in December 2023.

“As an Indigenous woman with lived/living experience, the stories we collected enabled me to exercise Traditional Ecological Knowledge. In a colonial world of systemic injustices and facing the need to address the grief of the less fortunate prepared me for the hardest loss – my own daddy.

My Ktown Elder/colleague Dorothy Goodeye, me (Sherry Landry, centre) and my dad, George “Archie” Landry (Mar. 21, 1941 – Dec. 27, 2023).

Thinking back from Ktown to the DTES, my daddy taught me to be kind and leave everyone smiling. He is well known in downtown Kelowna and had an uncle living in DTES. His calls were weekly, but more frequent while I was in Vancouver.

I believe those in the spirit world guided me to the places, people and pain to gain the knowledge that – although I didn’t realize it – would help me through my own grief.

From the beginning, so many unexplainable things happened, more so in DTES. I still reflect on one interview where an elder (senior) lost his son last year, I named the place where his favorite hangout was with his son. Personally, I have never been there, and can’t think of why [place name] came out of my mouth. He was taken aback, looked at me and said, “how did you know that, I didn’t tell you”. To this day, it is still puzzling and I strongly believe while working with those experiencing death that we are not truly alone. The stories we were gifted, and the knowledge we gained will forever be in my medicine bag of life. Mahsi cho for the chance of a lifetime.”

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