Support for families, friends, and carers during voluntary assisted dying
When someone is dying or has died it can be a stressful time. Grief is different for everyone and can be complex, it can start before someone dies. There is no right way to feel when experiencing loss or helping someone through the voluntary assisted dying process.
If grief or your involvement in supporting someone through the voluntary assisted dying process is affecting your physical or mental wellbeing, it's important you speak to your doctor or healthcare worker (for example, a psychologist) about it. You may not be able to do this on your own. Asking for help is okay—different people will need and want different levels of support.
During and after the voluntary assisted dying process
The coordinating doctor is a key contact of support throughout the voluntary assisted dying process. They can support the person accessing voluntary assisted dying, as well as family and carers. They can also refer to more appropriate supports, if needed. The coordinating doctor’s involvement will normally end once the person has died.
Once the death has occurred, you may experience conflicting feelings of sadness, relief or distress. For some people, voluntary assisted dying may include stigma that can complicate the grieving process. Accepting another person’s choice to access voluntary assisted dying will be easy for some people and difficult for others. Even those who are wholly supportive will face an inevitable outcome of the loss of someone and the grief that follows.
As the person’s family, friend or carer you may be able to access bereavement care via the health service that was providing medical care to the person. Where palliative care services have been involved in the care of the person, they may be able to offer bereavement support or referral to other services.
There are many health and community-based service providers who can give you help to support your emotional wellbeing. These services are staffed by professionals trained to provide support including assistance developing a mental health care plan, referring you to a mental health professional, or other services based on your needs.
24/7 crisis services
- 1300 MH CALL: Mental Health Access Line call 1300 64 22 55 (24/7)
- Lifeline call 13 11 14 (24/7 – phone, text, online)
- Suicide Call Back Service call 1300 659 467 (24/7 – phone and online)
- 13YARN provide 24/7 crisis support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
- Beyond Blue call 1300 22 4636 (24/7 – phone, online)
- Griefline call 1300 845 745 (8am to 8pm AEST Monday to Friday)
- Queensland Transcultural Mental Health Centre call 3317 1234 or 1800 188 189 (outside Brisbane) or 1300 64 22 55 (24/7)
- World Wellness Group (multicultural support) call 1300 079 020
Find more grief counselling and support, and help lines, counselling and support group information.
Importance of self-care
When your family member, friend, or person you care for is considering voluntary assisted dying, it can be challenging. Caring for them during this process can take a significant toll on your mental and physical wellbeing. If you can, it is recommended that you take the time to care for your own needs as well.
Providing support may leave you feeling physically and emotionally drained. You may choose to discuss a care plan with your doctor to help you get the support you need. This could include:
- seeking psychological, emotional, social and cultural support specific to your needs
- special equipment to help in your role as a carer such as: bath or shower handrails, a commode, a urinal, a hospital bed, dosette box, sharps container, pressure relieving devices, a walking frame, or a wheelchair
- additional support that can be provided.
Where you can, try to keep up healthy habits during this time, no matter how small, including:
- going outdoors
- doing an activity you enjoy
- surrounding yourself with your family and friends
- talking to people.
More tips and resources on how to look after your mental health and wellbeing are available on the Dear Mind website.
- When someone dies: A practical guide for the family and friends of a person who has chosen voluntary assisted dying (PDF, 864KB)
- When someone dies: A practical guide for family and friends (PDF, 1.1MB) has information and practical ideas about things to do before and after an adult family member or friend dies in Queensland. The resource is also available in:
- During sad news and sorry business: Information for family (PDF, 814KB) has information and practical ideas for First Nations peoples about things to do before and after an adult passes away in Queensland.
- Checklist: Tasks and contact list (PDF, 45KB) - a checklist that outlines tasks to carry out and people/organisations to contact.
- Carer Help provides support and resources for carers throughout the caring process, including after death.
- CareSearch is a palliative care knowledge network that has a variety of resources aimed at family, friends and carers.
- The Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement helps family, friends, and carers cope with the death of a person and refers them to resources including information sheets on grief, statewide counselling and support services and bereavement support groups.