Grief and bereavement

Following the person’s passing, there are a number of cultural practices that may occur that should be approached with respect and continued support, examples include:

  • non-Indigenous staff members should not necessarily contact the next of kin
  • not using the deceased person’s name
  • performing a smoking ceremony.

It is recommended that staff seek guidance beforehand, if possible, from the local Liaison Officer, Cultural Practice Coordinator, an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner, the family or the community. Noting that the staff themselves may have a personal relationship with the person who has passed on [21898].

Grief is the normal reaction to a loss but each individual will have their own experience, which is likely to affect them emotionally, mentally, physically, as well as impacting their behaviour and potentially their spiritual beliefs. Support should be available for people experiencing grief, including from the formal services who provided care to the person that has passed on. This could be general grief and bereavement support, or it may be more targeted if the person is at risk of, or experiencing prolonged grief [35542][35543].

The grief experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is likely to be multi-layered, as the high rates of chronic disease and premature passing within communities can mean that people are grieving for more than one person at any one time. It can also be compounded by other losses such as historical and ongoing removal of children and imprisonments [8608].

People who provide care for those living with a life-limiting illness should also be aware of the impacts it can have on their own resilience and strength, in supporting themselves, their families, their colleagues and the people they care for. This self-awareness is essential for managing their own vulnerabilities, triggers and stress and to try and avoid burning out or compassion fatigue. Support can be as simple as casual discussions with colleagues or may be more formalised as debriefs, mentoring or clinical supervision [35545]. Most organisations have their own policies to support their staff and people can also access support outside their workplace, such as through their GP or professional associations.


Key resources



Carried Lightly by Brian Robinson

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