Grief and bereavement

Grief and bereavement

Grief is a natural response to loss. Each one of us, however, may experience it quite differently. It is a painful process with thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that may be difficult for us to understand. Family and friends may experience a range of emotions and behaviours including denial, fear, anger, guilt, lack of sleep and low self-esteem.

Bereavement describes the period after the death of a loved one. It’s a time in which we learn to live without them, when we struggle to adjust to a new situation. There is no time limit to this process but the following may influence the length of our bereavement:

  • Was the death sudden or unexpected?
  • Was death preceded by a long illness?
  • What was your relationship with the deceased?
  • What has been your previous experience with grief? How did you cope?
  • What support systems are available? (family, friends, community, church, counselling)

A Living Grief

When a loved one is placed into nursing care, a sense of guilt or relief may accompany more expected feelings, like sadness. Over the months and sometimes years in care, we may see many challenging changes in our loved one.

For those whose loved one has dementia, a different grief may arise, that of a living grief. Learning to love the new person, and letting go of what they once were, is an emotionally draining experience.

Grandchildren may find it difficult to visit the person in hospital, especially if they cannot communicate. Try talking about ‘what grandma did when she was your age’, and to look at old photographs to piece together the loved one’s life.

As life comes to a close, a million thoughts and memories come to us about the life lived and our future without that person. We tend to go into ‘busy mode’ – telephoning people, making funeral arrangements, organising food, wondering how we are going to survive the weeks, even years, after the death.

At this time, we encourage you to think about yourself as well as your family and friends. This is a time not to be hurried, a time to take care of yourself.

Looking After Yourself

When there is a death, you may find the following helpful:

Don’t rush into organising everything yourself.

Accept support and help from family, counsellors and the community (for example, your church group or doctor).

Call your funeral director for their support and direction.

Talk about the life of the deceased. Share your experiences of them with others. Each person will have a different relationship and different stories to tell.

Write your thoughts down in a journal.

Encourage young children to write or draw their memories about the deceased. Give them photographs so they can make their own book.

Grief Counselling

Finney Funeral Services commitment to your family does not end on the day of the funeral. Our funeral directors contact each family shortly after the service to offer any ongoing assistance and support during this difficult time.

We have a dedicated aftercare consultant who can assist you with all aspects of helping your family in the early days following the loss of a loved one. This is all part of the service we can offer you in the recovery process.

Following is a list of books that may be helpful to grieving families in helping to develop an understanding of death

Anatomy of Bereavement

Dr. Beverly Raphael - Basic Books, 1986

This Australian pioneer in the field of loss and grief addresses the diverse causes of grief and the impact on various age groups. Has become a ‘classic’ of the genre.

Disenfranchised Grief: Recognising Hidden Sorrow

Kenneth J. Doka (Ed.)- Research Press

 This text is a collection of writing from various practitioners looking at the many types of loss which go unrecognized in the wider community, therefore leaving those who grieve experiencing isolation, loneliness and lack of support.

Grief: The Mourning After 2nd Edition

Catherine Sanders - Wiley, 1998

 This book can be read easily by professional and volunteer. It is an encouraging and helpful book outlining the process of grief with practical strategies to assist the bereaved.

The Phoenix Phenomenon: Rising from the Ashes of Grief

Joanne Jozefowski - Jason Aronson, 1999

 This book outlines the very positive growth attainable following the loss of someone deeply loved. It is an inspirational book for those who have felt their world has ended. Mental health workers will find it very helpful.

Grief Counselling and Grief Therapy


 This text offers counselling techniques and information on specific causes of death such as anticipatory grief and children’s violent death.

On Death and Dying

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross - Scribner (reprint) 1997

 This short and simple book has been named as one of the mot significant studies in the area of psychology of the late 20th century. Dealing with the end of life feelings of terminally ill patients Kubler-Ross opened up public discussion around what had been treated as a taboo subject.

Nonfinite Grief

Elizabeth J. Bruce and Cynthia L. Schultz - Brookes 2001

 This book by two women based in Victoria, Australia, has become a text of great importance to those who work with individuals and families living with non-ending loss and grief. This book looks at strategies to assist those (for example) who support people living with disabilities.

Continuing Bonds: New Understandings of Grief

Klass, Silverman,Nickman - Taylor and Francis 1996

 This book (with writing by 22 authors) demonstrates that individuals can resolve grief healthily while maintaining bonds of love with the deceased. It therefore challenges many previously proposed theories that there is a need to relinquish or let go of the loved one in order to live a productive life.

Coping with Grief

Mal McKissock - ABC Books 3rd Edition

 This Australian writer has provided us with a wonderful basic book which is small and very accessible. An excellent ‘first book’ on loss and grief.


J.Penson - Nelson Thornes Ltd 1990

 A guide for nurses examining ways of helping family members and friends, before during and after the death of a client.

Death and Dying

Allan Kellehear - Oxford University Press 2000

An interdisciplinary scholarly book on death and dying in Australia

Living beyond Loss

Walsh and others - W.W.Norton & Co. Ltd 2004

The impact of loss on family functioning and the reorganisation of roles and relationships and related topics.

Earl A. Grollman

Earl Grollman is a prolific author and his work is very readable and accessible. The following titles are available through good book stores and are worth reading:

  • Living when a loved one dies
  • Talking about death: A dialogue between parent and child
  • Straight talk about death for teenagers: how to cope with losing someone you love
  • Caring and coping when your loved one is seriously ill
  • Living when a young friend commits suicide
  • Time remembered
  • When someone you love has Alzheimer’s: a caregivers journey
  • Talking about divorce (a picture book for children)
  • Bereaved Children and Teens: A support guide for parents and professionals
  • Concerning death: a practical guide for the living
  • What helped me when my loved one died
  • The working parent dilemma: how to balance the responsibilities of children and careers
  • Living when a young friend suicides
  • In sickness and in health
  • Living with loss, healing with hope
  • Talking about death