Grief FAQ's

What is Grief?

Grief is a normal emotional and physical response that can occur when we have experienced a significant loss and/or change in our lives. The death of someone we love results in emotional responses such as disbelief, anger, guilt, depression and a feeling of emptiness. Physical symptoms can include sleeplessness, loss of concentration, the feeling of detachment, and numbness.

How Long Does Grief Last?

Grief responses are very individual. Each person will react in their own unique way. There are certain chemicals released by the grieving person, sometimes for months after the death, which is normal. These chemicals change the way we think and feel. Often a birthday, Christmas and the first anniversary of the death of a loved one are especially difficult times. It can take anywhere from two to five years to readjust after a death of a loved one.

Does Grief Just Affect Emotions?

Grief affects us both emotionally and physically. Our thought processes can be altered for some time. Being vague and forgetful, the fear of going crazy, too much sleep or lack of it, are all normal reactions to the death of a loved one. Some people say they see or hear the person who has died. Our bodily systems can change, more infections, coughs, colds, high blood pressure all occur with some grieving people and can be checked by your doctor.

Is it Wrong to Have Conflicting Feelings?

When a loved one has suffered a long drawn out illness, it is common to feel a sense of relief when the person dies. In time you will feel sad at the loss of that person in your life and perhaps experience guilt at your earlier reaction of relief, especially if the death has given you greater personal freedom. Grief is like being on a roller-coaster, your emotions can change from day to day or even hour to hour. When grieving, we need to be kind to ourselves and not make judgements on our own behaviour. If you find yourself having a good day, enjoy it, the next day could be completely different.

Is it More Difficult to Recover From the Impact of a Sudden Death?

A sudden death is different from an expected death. When someone is dying we have the opportunity to deal with 'unfinished business' and perhaps lessen our regrets of things we wish we had said or done. With sudden and unexpected death there has usually been no opportunity for this and the grieving can be different. It can be most important then to spend some time with the deceased person i.e. viewing to say goodbye.

What Do I Say to Someone Who is Grieving?

People who are grieving need to be allowed to express their feelings in a safe environment. They need to know you will not judge or devalue their feelings by using clichés such as 'at least he didn't suffer'. What you can say to a grieving person is something like 'I wish I had the words to ease the pain you are going through right now'.

Do Children Grieve?

Children from the ages of three to four are aware that someone is missing and need to be involved with the family in the funeral if they so choose. Older children will often outwardly copy adults in their grieving e.g. crying or not crying, while inwardly having their own grief reactions as individuals.

Does Grief Affect Men and Women Differently?

It appears there are male and female responses to grief. A typical male reaction can be to not talk about things because this will 'only cause upset'. They need to feel in control, to be the 'protector', 'leader' and 'fixer'. Some women can use this method also. A typical female reaction will be to talk over and over again about the deceased person and the death, often with tears and emotion. These reactions are both normal, and can cause conflict in relationships.

What Do We Tell the Children?

Children under the age of three need to be kept in their routine with primary care givers as much as possible. Over that age they need to be told simply and honestly what has happened and what will happen in the funeral and in a 'viewing', and then asked if they would like to take part. They are more likely to accept matters if they are kept informed and given a choice. Often children will draw a picture, use a photo or a toy to place in the coffin to say goodbye.

What Can I Do to Help Someone Who is Grieving?

In times of grief, people need acceptance of their emotions for however long it takes for them to heal. Providing help with practical tasks such as shopping, cooking or minding children is very helpful for the person grieving. Often the grieving person is afraid that others are 'sick of them' and will not ask for help. Phone the grieving person on a regular basis, with their permission, just to show you care. Allow them to grieve in their own way.

If your questions are not answered or you would like further information, please contact The AFDA on (03) 9859 9966 or email via