Understanding and Coping with Loss
What is grief?
Grief is how we respond when we experience a significant change or loss. It can occur following different types of loss.
The experience of grief is powerful. It can feel like being lost in a maze of conflicting and intense emotions. It can seem
chaotic and sometimes it brings a sense of losing control.
Grief is not static; it ebbs and flows.
Grief enables us to gradually adjust to our loss, to integrate the experience of loss into our life and eventually to make
new meanings in our world. Life will not be the same.
Grief is different for everyone. Reactions vary, but may include:
• Feelings such as shock, numbness, anger, sadness, fear, anxiety, loneliness, chaos, guilt and helplessness
• Thoughts such as confusion, lack of concentration, dreams, hallucinations, doubts, disbelief, wondering ‘what if?’
preoccupation with particular ideas or experiences and interference with memory
• Behaviours such as lethargy or over activity, lack of self-care, sleeplessness or sleeping a lot, desire to resort to
alcohol or non prescribed drugs and other potentially harmful behaviours
• Physical reactions such as tiredness, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, constipation, vomiting and pain
• Social effects - relationships with others may change
Recognising the experiences of grief may not take away the pain, but can increase understanding of what is happening.
Grief has no timetable or set pattern
The experience of grief can be like enduring a fierce storm at sea. Waves of grief are hugely peaked and close together
at first. Sometimes they swamp us.
Eventually the sea becomes calmer, but the storms can return over the months or years, sometimes without warning,
bringing new waves of grief. At times we feel or see them coming, perhaps triggered by a special anniversary or event.
Skills to manage these grief storms can be learned.
Eventually you can learn to live with this experience. Its intensity will gradually ease.
We cannot choose or control what life serves up to us.
We can choose what to do with the experience from now on.
How to help yourself
• Choose a good listener if you need to talk.
• You may need to withdraw from time to time to reflect or you may prefer to be busy and active.
• Be patient. Do not expect too much of yourself.
Find out about grief. Understand that grief reactions change frequently and vary enormously.
Trust yourself to know what you need. Do what is right for you.
• Accept that you may need to explain to others what your grief is like.
Lean into the pain at times - avoiding it indefinitely can delay adjustment.
• Be good to yourself physically and emotionally.
• Do not make big decisions too soon.
• Medication alone cannot cure or help you to avoid grief. It may assist in the treatment of depressive illness.
• Grief takes time. Some days you will just exist until better days gradually come along.
What is grief counselling?
Counselling is a confidential discussion between client and counsellor. It includes both education and support.
Not everyone wants or needs grief counselling. Everyone is different.
• Choose the type of support that suits you. Grief counselling is one of a number of possibilities. Joining a support group
of recently bereaved people or a common interest group are others.
• Grief counselling can help you to understand loss in a way that enhances your life.
• Counselling can be useful early in the grief experience or years later. Sometimes an event unexpectedly triggers the
need to explore issues that you may have ignored for a long time.
Your palliative care provider will be able to offer you grief counselling, information and support services. They will refer
you to services they cannot provide.
Community Health Services provide means tested bereavement support counselling. Find your service under Community
Health Centres and Services in the yellow pages, or at www.yellowpages.com.au
Telephone Support Services
Lifeline 24 hours 131 14
Suicide Helpline 24 hours 1300 651 251
Kids Helpline 24 hours 1800 551 800
Bereaved Parents & Siblings 1800 641 091
Australian Centre for Grief & Bereavement
Education & Information 1800 642 066
Bereavement Counselling and Support Service
Support Groups firstname.lastname@example.org
Banksia Palliative Care
Website for children and adolescents www.banksiapalliative.com.au