How a palliative approach can help older people being cared for at home: A booklet for older people and their families

9 What is the best way to manage grief and bereavement?

Page last updated: 21 May 2012

Grief is experienced when a loss occurs and includes feelings of unhappiness, pain, guilt, anger and sadness. Bereavement is the reaction to a loss and includes the process of healing or ‘recovery’ from that loss.

You may experience many losses during the course of your illness (eg loss of good health and physical ability). Grieving will almost certainly occur for these losses and may also occur because death is drawing near.

Although taking great comfort from being with you, family carers are also likely to experience loss and grief during your illness. For example, they may miss the things you used to be able to do together and anticipate the separation brought about by death. After your death they will grieve because they can no longer spend time with you.

Each person will grieve and recover in his or her own way. Common reactions to grief include:

  • feelings of disbelief, confusion, anxiety, fear, sadness, anger, guilt and relief
  • sleep disturbances
  • loss of appetite
  • restlessness.

Answers to questions about grief

Anyone dealing with grief might ask themselves the questions in the following sections.

Will grief ease with time?

Grief is an individual experience. Grief can be experienced by you and your family in response to your illness. Initially, grief is overwhelming and people can feel out of control. With time, people find they have more ability to control their memories and emotions.

Is there a right way and a wrong way of coping with grief?

Everyone experiences grief differently depending on personality and life experiences. There is no right or wrong way to deal with grief. However, support can help recovery.

When is help needed?

Reassurance from others who have also experienced grief can be helpful. An understanding of what other people have commonly undergone when grieving can also help.

It is important to seek professional help if you suffer long-lasting intense emotion or obsessive thoughts or behaviours. Seek help urgently if you have any strong fears or anxieties about wellbeing or thoughts of self-harm.

The National Carer Counselling Program (operated by Carers Australia) offers a national carer counselling service.
For more information please visit Carers Australia website.
Telephone: 1800 242 636

Lifeline offers a confidential 24-hour counselling service that may be helpful for people who are distressed.
Telephone: 13 11 14