Dealing with grief

Grief is a normal, natural and inevitable response to loss and can affect every part of the life of a person experiencing it. Depending on the circumstances, the impact that bereavement can have on a person will differ.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve, so try to understand that many factors may be influencing the way someone is grieving. Influencing factors may relate to the age of the deceased, the relationship between the bereaved and the deceased and the circumstances of death.

Intense feelings that can be experienced include: sadness, anger, anxiety, disbelief, panic, relief and numbness.

Remember that everyone grieves in his or her own way. Some do not show their grief in public and can only express it privately. Others are open and expressive. However grief is displayed, it must be respected.

It is important to note that religious and cultural factors may impact upon a person’s feelings of the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ ways to deal with their grief.

Stages of grief

Grief does not follow a linear pattern and there are many stages that a grieving person may go through. For many, it can be two steps forward and one step back.

Much of a person’s grieving is about expressing emotion. Some of these emotions may be unfamiliar and unacceptable to you and these may include expressions of anger. It is important to remember that anger from a grieving person should not be taken personally.

Ways you can help the bereaved

  • Listen in a non-judgmental and accepting way.
  • Allow for moments of silence and reflection.
  • Mention the deceased’s name.
  • Understand that tears are a normal and a healthy part of the grieving process.
  • It is not necessary to fill in silences with small talk.
  • Remember that grief may take years to work through and it is important to be mindful and sensitive, regardless of how long ago the loved one passed away.

Phrases that don’t help

“I know how you feel.” None of us can know exactly how someone else feels.

“Time will heal.” Although time may help, it does not necessarily heal in an exact time frame.

“There must have been a reason.” Life is not always fair or reasonable.

Phrases that do help

“This must be very difficult for you.” The bereaved may feel free to elaborate or open up.

“I have no idea what this must be like for you.” This gives the bereaved an opportunity to talk and for you to listen.

“This must be hard to accept.” Again, listen to what the bereaved has to say.

“You must have been very close to him/her.” The bereaved can then talk about the relationship.

Triggering emotions

It is important to understand that the death of a person and witnessing the grief of others can trigger our own experiences of loss and make us think about losses that may occur to us in the future.

Grief organisations

Bereavement Counselling and Support

Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement

1300 664 786

Compassionate Friends

(03) 9888 4944

National Association for Loss & Grief

(03) 9329 4003

Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Support Group

1300 072 637

Sids and Kids

1300 308 307

 

24 hour crisis counselling

Lifeline

131 114

Parentline

132 289

Kids Helpline

1800 551 800