Experiencing the death of a loved one changes us and our world as we know it. So what happens once the funeral is over and that initial outpouring of support from family and friends begins to wane. "Life goes on", they say ... but so does grief.
At Burstows, we know that healing from grief and loss is a journey, and that everyone needs support of different types and to different degrees along the way. That's why, as well as being there for you ourselves professionally, practically and emotionally in those first crucial days and weeks around the funeral, we partner with the Grief Centre to offer free ongoing grief care and counselling as needed for up to a year.
Grief Centre general manager Katrina King explained that the charitable trust has been working in New Zealand since 2009 and offering bereavement support in Australia since 2019. "Sometimes having someone outside your own circumstances can allow you to feel free to release your grief," she said.
A Grief Companion from the Centre gives you a "wellbeing call" 6-8 weeks after the funeral, "providing a safe space to talk about your loss and how you are feeling", Katrina said.
"We know this is a good time to offer support because the formalities and practicalities of the funeral, paperwork and documents are over, and friends and family are beginning to move on, often leaving the grieving person without that immediate support they still need. By checking in during those early stages, we can help catch those who are not coping, or who know other family members who might need support." Grief Companions are highly qualified and compassionate and can offer unlimited phone support, but anyone needing additional professional help can be referred on to a Grief Counsellor.
Katrina said people often think that those who have experienced unexpected and traumatic loss, or the loss of a young person, will have a more difficult grief journey. But grief has no hierarchy, and anyone can struggle.
Elderly people who have lost a lifetime partner, someone who has been the centre of their world for decades, can really be overwhelmed by their grief. "They often say when the Grief Companion calls that they are so glad to talk freely about their person, their life and their loss, to laugh and cry and have someone there to listen because they say they don't want to burden family and friends," she explained.
"There can also be multiple griefs. When someone dies, it can change our friend groups, how we live, we may have to move home, so it's about the bereavement itself but it can also be about transition grief, having to accept unexpected changes which you may not be comfortable with.
"Families can also be complicated, and there can be guilt about things said and not said, and complicated relationships that weren't repaired before the death, all of which can play a part in someone's journey."
Grief is not just about feeling sad, it can be a "whole body experience," Katrina said, the extent of which often surprises people. "It can be overwhelming at first - you can feel sick, shake, not sleep or be constantly tired, your brain can seem like it's barely functioning ... but it's all your brain's way of coping with something so difficult to take in."
It's important, she says, to understand that this is all normal: you can and will get through it. Also important, is to understand that it's not as simple as "going through" the five stages of grief (anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance) we have heard about - it's a continuum of emotions which can occur and reoccur in any order as you learn to move forward with your life and grief.
Tending to self-care - reading, talking, creating, exercising, listening to music, meditating, getting out into nature - finding the right supports and nurturing hope and belief, are all vital to moving through grief, she said. So too is accepting the bad days alongside the good.
"The sad fact is that loss is everywhere and it's something we all have to go through - we don't move on but we can definitely move forward."