The study will help develop guidelines for supporting people bereaved in this way and will be conducted by Professor Tony Walter and Dr Christine Valentine, from the University’s Centre for Death & Society, in the Department of Social & Policy Sciences.

The grant comes from the Economic and Social Research Council.

Professor Walter, and Dr Valentine will be working with research consultant Lorna Templeton at the University of Bath and Professor Linda Bauld and research associate Jennifer McKell at the University of Stirling, all with expertise in addiction studies.

Professor Walter said: “This study will investigate the experiences and concerns of bereaved families who have lost loved ones through substance misuse and develop guidelines for practitioners working to support this group.

“It will be achieved through in-depth interviews with bereaved family members and consultation with policy-makers and practitioners in South West England and the West of Scotland.”

Dr Valentine said: “At a time when substance misuse related deaths are increasing and support for bereaved families lacking, the study will address a significant gap in understanding and addressing the needs of this group.”

Professor Walter is Director of the Centre for Death & Society, and Professor of Death Studies (half-time) at the University of Bath. Prior to this, he was a freelance writer before becoming a Lecturer, then Reader in Sociology at the University of Reading.

Dr Valentine holds a PhD in sociology from the University of Bath, which focused on the social and cultural shaping of grief and bereavement. The findings from her PhD research form the basis of her book published in 2008 by Routledge as Bereavement Narratives: Continuing Bonds in the 21st Century.

The research will be based in the Centre for Death & Society, in collaboration with the Universities of Stirling and Glasgow, the research will begin in September 2012 and run for three years.