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Optimizing Visits to the Site of Death for Bereaved Families After Disasters and Terrorist Events

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 September 2017

Pål Kristensen*
Center for Crisis Psychology, Bergen, Norway Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies, Oslo, Norway
Atle Dyregrov
Center for Crisis Psychology, Bergen, Norway Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
Lars Weisæth
Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
Marianne Straume
Center for Crisis Psychology, Bergen, Norway
Kari Dyregrov
Center for Crisis Psychology, Bergen, Norway Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Bergen University College, Bergen, Norway
Trond Heir
Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies, Oslo, Norway Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
Renate Grønvold Bugge
Center for Crisis Psychology, Bergen, Norway
Correspondence and reprint requests to Pål Kristensen, PhD, Center for Crisis Psychology, Fortunen 7, 5013 Bergen, Norway (e-mail:


In recent years it has been common after disasters and terrorist events to offer bereaved families the opportunity to visit the place where their loved ones died. Many report that such visits are beneficial in processing their loss. Various factors, both cognitive (eg, counteracting disbelief) and existential or emotional (eg, achieving a sense of closeness to the deceased), are associated with the experienced benefit. Nonetheless, exacerbations of trauma and grief reactions (eg, re-enactment fantasies) are common, with some of the bereaved also reporting adverse reactions after the visit. Subsequently, proper preparations are a prerequisite before such visits take place. This article describes how to optimize collective visits to the site of death after disasters or terrorist events for bereaved families. Important questions—for example, concerning those who should be responsible for organizing a visit and those who should be invited, the timing of the visit, what can be done at the site, the need for support personnel, and other practical issues—are discussed and general guidelines are recommended. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2018;12:523–527)

Concepts in Disaster Medicine
Copyright © Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health, Inc. 2017 

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