Grief counselling and support

Everybody grieves in their own way. There is no right or wrong way to do it, and no timeline on how long you will be grieving for.

You may be able to deal with your grief with the help of family and friends, or you may need some extra help.

Regardless, it is important that you find what you need and give yourself time to heal.

Understanding grief and loss

What is grief?

Grief is a normal, natural response that follows a significant change or loss which may affect parts, or all, of someone's life. Grief is a process of coming to terms with what has changed in life.

When people grieve, they are coming to terms with what has changed in their lives. Grief can also be delayed and not surface until some time after a loss has occurred.

Different types of loss

Grief can follow the loss of a loved one, home, pet, possession or livelihood. It can also follow a change in circumstances such as moving house, relationship breakdown or having your children move out.

Each person's grief is unique, and they will grieve in a way that is right for them, regardless of the type of loss involved.

Signs of grief

Some people are open and expressive with their grief, for example crying, and wanting to talk, while others are more private, and may be reluctant to talk preferring to keep busy.

A grieving person may experience intense thoughts and feelings such as sadness, anger, fear, anxiety, disbelief, panic, relief, shame and nostalgia.

Grief can include both physical and emotional distress. Signs of distress can include:

  • crying and sadness (or a reluctance to cry)
  • feeling numb
  • difficulty sleeping and having nightmares
  • constantly feeling tired and depressed
  • changes to eating habits
  • difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • feeling tense, sick and having difficulty breathing
  • losing interest in family, friends and hobbies
  • disorientation and confusion.

How to cope with grief and loss

Dealing with grief and loss is different for everyone-you may want to cry, be alone or want to yell. Some people do not show their grief in public, expressing it only in private.

Grieving can also be hard work. It is a time to reach out to others for comfort and encouragement as you allow yourself the time to mourn. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

To help you get through a difficult time:

  • accept that your feelings (both physical and emotional) are normal and valid
  • allow yourself time and space to express your feelings and to grieve-crying is a good release of emotions
  • talk about what you are going through with friends and family, even if you just need them to listen
  • be patient with yourself-you will have good days and bad days
  • try to keep your life as normal as possible and keep doing the things that you have always enjoyed
  • allow friends and family to help you with everyday tasks
  • ensure you rest, have some light daily exercise and eat a healthy diet
  • don’t make any major decisions, as your ability to do so may be compromised by your grief
  • if you have lost someone close to you, remember that they will always be part of your life-cherish their memory and celebrate their life
  • take the time you need to grieve-there is no time limit.

Although grief can be very painful, most people find that with the support of their family and friends and their own resources they gradually find ways to learn to live with their loss.

Read more about coping with grief.

Helping someone else deal with grief

You do not always know people are grieving simply by what you see.

The most important thing to do is to make sure your friend or relative knows that you care and are willing to help. Sometimes just listening is the best support you can give.

People who are grieving will not necessarily know what will help them, so offer support in different ways and at different times.

If your friend or relative wants to talk-even about the same thing over and over again-make opportunities for this, but don’t expect it. There will be times for talking and times not to talk.

You don't have to rely on words; if appropriate, a squeeze of the hand, a touch on the shoulder or an embrace is sometimes more comforting. If you think it will help, you can also share some memories with them.

Offering some practical support is another way you can help, but don’t be offended if they decline. Remember, everyone grieves differently.

Find out more about how to help someone deal with grief.

Where to get help and support

You should consider seeking help if you:

  • think your emotions or physical symptoms are too intense or persistent
  • feel too numb, cut off, or you have to keep active in order not to feel anything
  • continue to have nightmares, poor sleep or flashbacks
  • experience loss of memory and concentration, and have increased accidents or illness
  • increase your smoking, drinking or drug taking
  • have no-one to talk to about your experiences
  • have thoughts of harming yourself or others
  • have lost faith in yourself or the world.

It is highly recommended that you speak to a doctor if you are experiencing any of these issues (or others). Your doctor will help you work through your concerns and may refer you to a counsellor if necessary.

Other services that offer help and support include:

  • Lifeline—phone 13 11 14 for free counselling and support (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). Lifeline also provides information about other grief counselling services.
  • 13 HEALTH—call 13 43 25 84 for general health information and referrals (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).
  • The Compassionate Friends, Queensland— peer support for parents, siblings and grandparents after the death of a child.  Call 1300 064 068 to speak with someone else who has experienced child loss and understands.
  • Sands—if you have suffered a miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn death, call 1300 072 637 to speak to someone who understands.
  • beyondblue—call 1300 224 636 if you are feeling depressed and want to talk to a trained professional about your problems (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).
  • Parentline—phone 1300 301 300 for counselling and support for parents (8am–10pm, 7 days a week).
  • Kids Help Line—if you are aged 5–25, call 1800 551 800 for free counselling (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).
  • MensLine Australia—call 1300 789 978 for professional support and advice for men (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).

Useful resources