Coping with grief

This section of the guide has lists of services and information that can help you to cope with grief and loss.

Losing a loved one is always hard, but when the death is sudden and unexpected, the feeling of loss can be even greater. There is no ‘normal’ way to feel when you suddenly lose someone close to you. Dealing with these emotions is always very difficult, but it may be harder for some people to cope than others.  What is normal is to need support to get through a difficult time like this. You may be able to get the support you need through your family and friends, or you may want to talk to a professional or someone who has no knowledge of what has happened. Do what makes you feel most comfortable.

Below is a list of services you can access including counsellors, specialist teams and 24-hour support services. There is also a list of information sheets to help you cope with grief and loss. They include information on how to help other people (such as children and teenagers) to get through the grieving process.

If you need legal, administrative or financial help, please go to A Guide for Families and Friends: Who can help?.

Services that can help

  • Grief and Loss Counsellor (business hours)
    • South (Royal Hobart Hospital) – (03) 6166 8344
    • North (Launceston General Hospital) – (03) 6777 6245
  • Lifeline (immediate counselling and assistance, 24 hours a day): 13 11 14
  • Kids Help Line (immediate counselling and assistance, 24 hours a day): 1800 55 1800
  • Mens Line Australia (immediate counselling and support, 24 hours a day): 1300 78 99 78
  • QLife line (support for LGBTQI, other sexuality, sex and gender diverse people – 3pm to 12am every day): 1800 184 527
  • Standby Response Service (crisis response for people bereaved by suicide):
  • GPs (doctors / general practitioners) can:
    • set up a Mental Health Treatment Plan, to help people improve their mental health after a traumatic event, and
    • refer people to a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker so that they can receive ongoing support (you can get rebates for ten individual and ten group psychology sessions per calendar year).
    • For more information on this service, go to the Australian Government Department of Health web site, and read the Better Access to Mental Health Care: fact sheet for patients.
  • Suicide Call-back Service (free counselling for anyone affected by suicide): 1300 659 467
  • SIDS and Kids (bereavement support and education, 24 hours a day): 1300 308 307
  • Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement, information and support services for those suffering through grief and bereavement
    • Phone: 1800 642 066
  • Road Trauma Support TAS offers assistance and support for people affected by motor vehicle crashes
    • Phone: (03) 6777 6252
  • Victims of Crime Service provides personal support and counselling. The service office hours are 8:45 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday
  • Hobart: (03) 6165 7524
  • Launceston: (03) 6777 2939
  • Burnie: (03) 6477 7133
  • Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre Inc provides support services for Aboriginal Australians
  • The Migrant Resource Centre Hobart and the Migrant Resource Centre Launceston provide support services for migrants, humanitarian entrants and refugees
  • The Trauma and Grief Network provides support for families dealing with grief and loss
  • The National Missing Persons Coordination Centre provides support and assistance for friends and relatives of missing persons
  • The Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services Mental Health page has links to lots of different support services and advice.

For an immediate emergency, contact emergency services: 000

For more links for mental health help and support, go to the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services DHHS useful links and contacts page.

Information that may help you cope with grief and loss

All of the information sheets listed below can be found on the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services web site.

Sudden Loss Support Kit

  • This is a booklet with lots of advice and contacts to help people dealing with sudden loss. You can get a copy at the coroner’s court on request.
  • You can also find this booklet online on the Department of Health and Human Services, Mental Health Documents page.

Sudden Loss: Grieving the Aboriginal Way

Sudden Loss: Information for LGBTI People

Sudden Loss: Supporting someone experiencing Sudden Loss

Sudden Loss: Have you suffered the loss of a child?

Sudden Loss: Helping Children and Teenagers

Suicide Risk and Prevention

Lifeline: Loss and Grief

Further information and support is available on the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services DHHS Mental Health website.

Grief after suicide

Grief after suicide is similar to grief after other types of death, but it also raises additional complex issues because of its suddenness and traumatic nature. These may include the following:

Trauma

Suicide may be violent and leave the bereaved traumatised. Intrusive images of the death can recur, even if the death was not witnessed. The initial grief reactions of shock and numbness may also be stronger and last longer.

Asking ‘Why?’

For the bereaved there is often a desperate need to know why it happened. The search for answers may seem relentless, but it is important you reach a point where you feel you have struggled long enough with the question. You may have enough answers to satisfy yourself, or recognise that the reasons for the suicide will never be completely understood.

Guilt

Guilt is a common reaction in bereavement. Research suggests that guilt is often felt intensely by those bereaved by suicide. Family members and friends often feel guilty about not having foreseen the suicide or prevented it. Bereaved families often feel guilty in some way for the death: that there was something ‘wrong’ in their family or with their parenting skills. Bereaved people often replay the events over and over again in their heads. There can be a long list of ‘if onlys’: ‘If only I had been home’, ‘If only I had recognised how they were feeling’ and ‘If only I hadn’t said that’. There is a limit to your responsibility: no one is responsible for another person’s decisions or actions.

Relief

For families and friends who have been through many years of chronic mental illness with their loved one, there may be feelings of relief. They may feel ‘At least now they are at rest’ and they may sense freedom from ongoing worry for their loved one. It is okay to feel this way; it does not mean you wished your loved one dead.

Blame

It is common for people to react to a sudden death by looking for someone to blame. Family members bereaved by suicide may blame each other. Initially blame can be a way for some people to make sense of what happened. Try to remember that no one is responsible for another person’s decisions or actions.

The StandBy Response Service

StandBy Response Service provides a 24 hour co-ordinated crisis response to assist families, friends and associates who have been bereaved through suicide. The StandBy Response Service provides a reliable, single point of contact co-ordinating existing services to enable an immediate response.

Contact the StandBy Response Service:

Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm

  • (03) 6282 1519

To Access the 24-hour Mobile

Should I tell people if it was suicide?

Some people find it difficult to tell others about the cause of death and choose not to do so. Initially this may be easier. However, it may result in experiencing a sense of unease in your relationships with others and may lead to a lack of support. It is helpful to be honest.

Telling the story can be healing. If you avoid the truth it will take extra energy and worry to maintain the lie and this will complicate the grief process. It is also important to be honest when telling children about the death. For a detailed discussion of talking with children about a suicide death go to the section in the Sudden Loss Support Kit on Helping Children with Grief (there is information on where to get a copy below).

What do I say when people ask me about the suicide?

It can be helpful to work out ahead of time what to say to people. You may want to share more with some people than others. If you do not want to discuss it at that time, let them know. You can say something like ‘I don’t want to go into that at the moment’. It may be better not to discuss the method (the way the person died) in too much detail. Some people are more vulnerable and may be influenced by this.

For information on how to tell children and teenagers about suicide, go to the Telling Children and Teenagers About Suicide section of the Sudden Loss Support Kit.

Sudden Loss Support Kit

  • This is a booklet with lots of advice and contacts to help people dealing with sudden loss. You can get a copy at the coroner’s court on request.
  • You can also find this booklet online on the Department of Health and Human Services, Mental Health Documents page.

Suicide Risk and Prevention

Sudden Loss: Have you suffered the loss of a child?

Information in this section has been reproduced with permission from the Department of Health and Human Services (Tasmanian Government) Sudden Loss Support Kit.