Grief and loss

Loss and change are part of the ebbs and flows of life and we are likely to experience them as we age. Grief is a natural reaction to loss and is a way of coping and healing.

The changes that we all experience as we age can lead to a wide range of losses.

  • People - through death or a relationship break-up or change
  • Pets - through death or because of a move.
  • Health - through illness, accident or disability
  • Possessions - by accident, theft, or the need to downsize
  • Places - through property development or moving house, neighbourhood or city
  • Your place in the world - through losing a place on a team or a job, or because your values have changed
  • Autonomy - as ageist attitudes to older people restrict opportunities or create barriers to participation.
  • One loss can often lead to others. For example, the loss of eyesight may also mean the loss of being able to read or to drive. A loss of mobility can bring a loss of independence.

Grief, as a reaction to loss, is a part of coping and healing. It can include a wide range of feelings, from depression and anger to denial and anxiety, and perhaps ultimately a sense of renewal. Grief has many guises and reaction to loss is a personal and individual experience.
You may feel a range of conflicting emotions, such as: Being unable to concentrate - or burying yourself in activity; Being unable to sleep, or wanting to sleep all the time; Not wanting company, but not wanting to be alone; Resenting those who offer words of comfort, but also those who stay silent.
Each and all of these are normal and common reactions.

Acknowledging and learning to accept the many feelings of grief enables people to begin the process of letting go of the grief and pain, and to begin healing.
Giving yourself permission to feel whatever you feel and to react however you react is an important part of healing through grief.

As a person's grief heals they begin to regain a sense of connectedness. Healing may come and go. It may take months. It may take years. But the healing continues

Sometimes however, feelings of grief seem like they are here to stay. If you have persistent distressing signs, which continue for a number of months after a bereavement or loss, seek help from a doctor or counsellor.

Grief Centre

Grief Centre is dedicated to helping those affected directly by loss as well those wanting to support and comfort loved ones and friends who are grieving.
They support people of all ages through the challenging times that follow the loss of someone special.
Open to all members of the community and people of any age, the Grief Centre can help you and your family heal from the pain of loss and continue grief's journey with newfound hope and peace of mind. The Grief Centre is located at 92 Hinemoa Street, Birkenhead, Auckland.
Have a question? (09) 418 1457

Mental Health Foundation

The Mental Health Foundation has a suicide bereavement page for people who have lost someone to suicide, including information about grief and ways to look after yourself or someone else.

"Take the time to talk"
As part of a national awareness week, people were encouraged to discuss their funeral and final wishes - does your family know your thoughts about burial or cremation? Have people thought about elements of the service? All these decisions, are choices which are frequently made in a hurry and at a stressful and emotional time. Most can be arranged earlier.

Te Hokinga ā Wairua - End of Life Service
A source of expert, trusted and accessible information to help guide people facing loss. You can find information about what to do, and services that might be available to you, following the death of a loved one or find information to help you create and share a personalised plan of what you want to happen when you die.

The GroundSwell Project (AUS)

Kicked the bucket. Croaking it. Pushing-up daisies. Passed over, on, away. The D-word.
We have no shortage of names for it, but when faced with death we are often lost for words.
Our superstitions, fears about dying and the discomfort we feel, affect our approach and experiences of the end of life. We reckon it's time for an upgrade on how we go about our dying matters. Our vision is that when someone is dying, caring or grieving, we all know what to do.
The purpose of the GroundSwell project is to create a more death literate society, one where people and communities have the practical know-how needed to plan well for end of life. This means shifting focus from 'talking about it' to transforming this 'difficult' conversation into one of deep community engagement, social action and empowerment.
Find out more

Unresolved miscarriage grief

For older women who experienced a miscarriage the loss at the time may have been minimised and was often experienced as a disenfranchised grief with even less understanding than there is today of the effects on the person involved. Other women losing babies and children to the prevalent childhood ailments may have discounted a miscarried baby as a minor misadventure, not understanding the isolation and significance the loss could cause. Hurtful things said, sometimes with good intentions by friends even, can stay in your memories. The grief may still remain unresolved.

Listener interview with Atul Gawande

"A life worth living is possible, right to the very end - if only we knew how to talk about what really matters and how to make it happen, says surgeon and author Atul Gawande." Keep reading this Listener article, where Gawande is interviewed about his latest book Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End and learn more about Gawande's amazing and refreshing look at mortality and what it can mean to people to achieve their own ideals at the end of their lives. 

Websites of interest

  • Miscarriage Support Auckland has an excellent website with a section on the grief feelings experienced by older women.
  • Skylight provides a national support service for New Zealand children and young people who are experiencing change, loss and grief - whatever its cause. They also support those caring for them - their families, whanau, friends, professionals and community volunteers. If you search older people you will find some very useful articles on ageing and grief. 
  • Widow Net looks at topics including grief and bereavement, recovery and a variety of information for people who have suffered the death of a spouse or partner.
  • - helps families to plan the funeral of a loved one with really helpful resources allowing them to compare prices and helpful hints that can make a huge difference at a really difficult time
  • - this is a New Zealand Funeral Services Directory that provides comprehensive information on funeral services, products and grief support services to help you celebrate the life of a loved one or plan ahead for you own life celebration.

Find your nearest Age Concern