My Grief My Way (MGMW)

Development of an online self-directed Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) intervention to improve ability to cope and quality of life after bereavement.

Grieving is a natural process, and typically 60% of people who are bereaved adjust with support from family and friends. Approximately 40% need additional support, yet service availability is inconsistent across the UK. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for bereavement support has increased, as has the level of need. A recent national survey identified high levels of unmet need, with over half of respondents reporting problems with grieving. Less than one-third felt that the support provided to them by friends and family was enough, yet most were not accessing support services. This was due to long waiting lists, limited availability and feeling uncomfortable seeking support.  

There is evidence to suggest that an online Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) psychological intervention has strong potential to improve coping and quality of life following bereavement, and can be scaled-up to meet growing demand for bereavement support across the UK. Recent systematic reviews have found that ACT is successful in treating depression and anxiety, and improves wellbeing in a broad range of settings. However, evidence on ACT for bereavement support is lacking. Given its potential, this project will evaluate the effectiveness of ACT in improving coping and wellbeing following bereavement.  

The aims of our proposed research are:  

(1) To develop a programme theory describing how an online ACT intervention can lead to improved coping, quality of life and wellbeing after bereavement. 

(2) To design, test and refine an online ACT-based psychological intervention to improve ability to cope and quality of life after bereavement.  

To achieve these aims, we will work closely with our stakeholders, including Cruse Scotland, Marie Curie and people who have been bereaved, so that the resources we develop are tailored to the needs of bereaved people and organisations who provide bereavement support.  We will draw on systematic review evidence conducted by our team and others; data generated from interviews with ACT practitioners; workshops with bereaved people and other stakeholders to help design our initial programme theory. We will then use this evidence to create a prototype intervention which will consist of online ACT-based audio-visual materials to support coping with grief. This online support package will include optional assistance from existing bereavement support volunteers. The intervention will be user-tested by stakeholders and our bereaved persons PPI group initially, then further tested and refined over three test-cycles involving 30 to 45 bereaved participants in total. Data from bereaved people and bereavement volunteer facilitator interviews, brief questionnaires on usefulness and impact of the online ACT materials, alongside stakeholder workshops, will be used to further refine and finalise the intervention. 

A key output from this project will be an online self-directed ACT bereavement support intervention, which can be used with or without volunteer support. This will be available for use by bereavement support services to meet increased demand for bereavement support; and for further testing and evaluation. 

Funded by Marie Curie.


Find out more about our partners

Meet the Team

Project Leads: 

Dr Anne Finucane, University of Edinburgh

Dr David Gillanders, University of Edinburgh

Co Investigators:

Dr Anne Canny, University of Edinburgh

Dr Emily Harrop, Cardiff University

Professor Nick Hulbert Williams, Edge Hill University

Dr Aileen Neilson, University of Edinburgh

Dr Lucy Selman, University of Bristol

Dr Juliet Spiller, Marie Curie

Dr Brooke Swash, University of Chester