Although grief is an intensely personal experience, most people find they do need some support from other people. You may draw support from your family, friends or others in your social circle, particularly those who supported you while the person was dying, but sometimes it helps to talk to people who aren't directly involved in your life.
"I wanted a place where I could really talk about how I felt and I didn't have to worry about hurting someone or protecting them." – Lee
Peer support services
Sometimes you may feel that your family and friends don't really understand your grief or aren't interested in hearing about it anymore, or you might feel that you can't be entirely honest about your feelings with them.
Meeting other people who have had similar experiences to you can be worthwhile. You may feel supported and relieved to know that others understand what you are going through and that you are not alone. There are many ways for you and your family to connect with others for mutual support and to share information. These include:
- face-to-face support groups – often held in community centres or hospitals
- online discussion forums – where people can connect with each other at any time – you can find the Cancer Council Online Community at cancercouncil.com.au/OC
- telephone support groups – for bereavement, facilitated by trained health professionals.
In these support settings, people often feel they can speak openly and share tips. You may find that you are comfortable talking about your experiences, your relationships with friends and family, and your hopes and fears for the future.
Ask your nurse or social worker or call Cancer Council 13 11 20 to find out about suitable support groups and peer support programs in your area.
Getting professional help
Most people cope with grief through the support of family and friends and sometimes a support group. However, you may want to seek professional help if you are finding your pain unbearable, if you are struggling to function after a time, or if you feel stuck and unable to move forward.
Bereavement counselling can help you learn to understand your reactions as part of the natural course of grief. During the sessions, you can explore a range of strategies for adjusting to the changes in your life. The counselling is usually provided by a professional counsellor, therapist or psychologist with experience in supporting people who are grieving.
Counselling may not be appropriate immediately or very soon after the death, so if you feel unable to function at that time, talk to your doctor first.
You can call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or ask your palliative care team for help accessing bereavement counselling. GriefLine offers confidential telephone and online grief counselling every day between midday and 3 am – call 1300 845 745 or visit griefline.org.au. If you need crisis support or are feeling suicidal, contact Lifeline 13 11 14.
Expert content reviewers:
Kate Jurgens, Bereavement Coordinator, Southern Adelaide Palliative Services, SA; Gabrielle Asprey, Facilitator, Telephone and Internet Support Groups, Cancer Council NSW; Leigh Donovan, Bereavement Coordinator, Paediatric Palliative Care Service, Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, QLD; Dr Kathryn Dwan, Senior Policy Officer, Palliative Care Australia; Philippa Kirkpatrick, National Policy Manager, Palliative Care Australia; Mary Klasen, Pastoral Care Manager, Mercy Hospital for Women, VIC; Tracey Newnham, Consumer; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Kerrie Noonan, Clinical Psychologist, Palliative Care, Liverpool Hospital, and Director, The Groundswell Project, NSW.