DOI: 10.1111/nicc.13012 ISSN: 1362-1017

The role of intensive care unit diaries in the grieving process: A monocentric qualitative study

Giacomo Bazzano, Francesco Buccoliero, Marta Villa, Flavia Pegoraro, Luigi Iannuzzi, Roberto Rona, Roberto Fumagalli, Marco Giani, Alberto Lucchini
  • Critical Care Nursing



The growing importance of psychological recovery for patients and their families following intensive care unit (ICU) experiences in recent years cannot be overemphasized. The ICU diary is used to aid patients in reducing the prevalence of post‐traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. The usefulness of maintaining a diary during the grieving process has not yet been thoroughly investigated.


To investigate the role of ICU diaries in the grief process experienced by family members of a person who died in the intensive care unit.

Study Design

Nine family members of seven deceased ICU patients with an ICU diary were contacted and interviewed by phone using a semi‐structured interview. A qualitative data analysis was performed using thematic synthesis.


Italian general intensive care unit.


Interviewed family members felt that the diary helped them during the grieving process. The return of diaries was desired by family members for support and to remember one's loved one. The diary helped them process their losses in various ways, including signs of evidence of care, emotional involvement, consideration, and coping with grief. Four main themes emerged from the analysis: writing the diary, reading the diary, talking about the diary, and the diary during the grieving process.


The overall perception of the ICU diary was positive. The diary mostly helped relatives to “give back something of what we lost”. This study also affirms the positive link between ICU diaries and bereavement in Italian ICU. Further studies are required to confirm the usefulness of this tool in the grieving process.

Relevance to Clinical Practice

The ICU diary can help patients' family members understand what happened to their loved one and play an important role in the grieving process. The diary served as a valuable source of information that aided in providing bereavement support to the family by helping them to gain a rational and emotional understanding of the patient's death.

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