1. What is it?
Grief and Loss
What is it?
When a person has been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness or is approaching the end of life, it can sometimes feel as if something has been taken away. Losses can be big or small or the buildup of many losses. For example, the loss might include:
- Loss of health and independence due to ageing, illness, or disability
- Loss of the ability to fulfill important roles that support their sense of identities such as parent or grandparent, colleague, or volunteer.
- Relationship changes such as separation from or death of a spouse, family member, or friends.
When a person experiences a significant loss, it is usually followed by a period of grief. Grief has no set pattern – how long or severe each experience is differing for everyone. Grief touches all aspects of a person’s life. In the weeks following a significant loss people may experience a wide range of unpredictable reactions and responses.
Physical reactions may include sleepiness or inability to sleep, loss of appetite or seeking comfort in food, being full of energy, or barely able to move.
Emotional responses might include sadness, anger, numbness, anxiety, and relief.
People may behave in ways that are out of character. Use of alcohol or other substances or other risk-taking behaviour may occur.
Grief often calls our spiritual beliefs into question. ‘Why did God let this happen?’ or faith may become a strong comfort. Finding meaning in the life of the person who has died and their relationship with the people left behind is an important part of grieving.
How people relate to others may change through grief. They may become withdrawn, or very dependent on having other people around them all the time.
Thinking can be disrupted. Often people worry about being more forgetful or being unable to concentrate on anything.
People who are grieving usually just need others to just be there and to provide practical help if needed, (cooking a meal or doing some laundry), to not judge the person or their situation, not offer advice or compare their own experiences. Listening is the most important and useful thing that others can do for someone who is grieving.
Complicated grief or prolonged grief is characterised by long-lasting or severe emotional reactions.
- The intensity of the grief does not subside over time
- Comfort is only found in living in the past
- The bereaved cannot engage in life
- Social interaction is avoided
- The person cannot find a new identity without their loved one.
Emotional and Spiritual needs
Spirituality is about how we make meaning in our lives and how we feel connected to other things, people, communities, and nature. Attending to a dying person’s spiritual needs can provide a sense of hope, purpose, and acceptance. These feelings are closely linked to a person’s identity and sense of self. Spirituality is not the same as religion, but some people associate their religious beliefs with their spirituality and identity.
Informal Sources of Bereavement Care
Child and Family Centers
3. Referral and Access by Region
About us – Anglicare (anglicare-tas.org.au) Pastoral Care (Statewide)
Helping People & Communities Thrive | Relationships Australia Tasmania Counselling (Statewide)
Counselling | CatholicCare Tasmania (Statewide)
Cancer Council Tasmania | Cancer Council (Statewide)