These resources have been created by people with lived experience of grief and loss and suicide bereavement. They offer tips on how to manage grief, practical information on how tangihanga and funerals may look during this period and information on where to find support.
Grief and loss challenges
- Grief is the natural response to losing a loved one. This can present in many ways and emotions may be intensified by requirements around physical distancing.
- With so much happening in the world right now, you may feel overwhelmed or numb. It’s actually ok to be numb for a time, to focus on surviving in the immediate now. Your grief is still there, underneath it all.
- Grief is different for everyone, try not to judge yourself or others. Let go of expectations right now.
Funeral, tangihanga and honouring a person’s life
Rules for funerals and tangihanga will differ under each Alert Level. At the moment, some parts of New Zealand are under Alert Level 3 and others under Alert Level 4.
Alert Level 4
Requirements around social distancing mean the traditions we associate with public funerals and tangihanga have paused. Gathering for these events is not allowed while New Zealand is at Alert Level 4.
Alert Level 3
Requirements around social distancing mean the traditions we associate with public funerals and tangihanga have paused. Funerals and tangi can go ahead under Alert Level 3 but are restricted to no more than 10 people. Funeral directors will need to keep a register of all persons entering the funeral home. Drinks and food cannot be shared afterwards.
You may choose to delay some of the ways you would like to farewell the person who has died until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
Yet we cannot delay grief. Having a service or activities and rituals to engage in within the first few weeks of a death can help with adapting to loss.
As an example, you might like to gather the people in your mirumiru/bubble and create your own farewell. You can put a photo up of your loved one, say a karakia/prayer, light a candle or share memories of that person. If you cannot attend a funeral or tangihanga due to COVID-19 restrictions, the venue where the funeral or tangihanga is being held may be able to supply a video link to watch proceedings online.
For more information on this please see the Ministry of Health/Manatū Hauora website page for COVID-19 Deaths, funerals and tangihanga.
Getting through together – Whāia e tātou te pae tawhiti
Grief can feel isolating. Know it’s not just you, and you are not alone.
- Let people know what’s happened, it’s important that you don’t feel alone in your grief. Seek the support of whānau, friends and colleagues to help you cope.
- Keep a notebook handy and write down anything you may need to remember. Lots can be going on and it can often be hard to focus and keep track of things.
- You might like to nominate someone in your whānau to be the main contact point. This person can liaise with funeral directors and official processes on your behalf. They can also arrange appropriate rituals for you and your mirumiru/bubble.
Distance not distant – Tinana Tawhiti, Whakaaro Tata
Phone and social media platforms offer us ways to connect and keep in touch, to share memories, photos and stories of the person who has died. We can reach out to feel less alone.
- Talking about how you are feeling helps. Perhaps ask a friend to check in with you every few days via text, phone, or video apps. It’s the gentle support and connection with others that counts.
- Sympathy cards can be used to share remembrance stories. Find a card with lots of blank space inside and write a personal story or memory of the person you’d like to share. It’s healing to write a precious memory down and the bereaved family may appreciate receiving these.
- If there are tamariki/children in your whānau, check in with them often. Answer their questions honestly. Tamariki may appear sad and happy in the space of minutes. Let them set their own pace.
- It's ok to alternate grieving with other activities. Doing this can help us adjust to loss while managing everyday life.
- Try to limit how much news and social media you consume – when we are experiencing sadness and trauma, regular news can be distressing.
Remember: In grief you can only do the best you can, be kind to yourself.
Send aroha to the whānau pani/bereaved family
Grief is challenging enough without the threat of a global pandemic. But you can be creative in how you offer support during COVID-19.
- Awhi/support and comfort your whānau pani/bereaved family & friends to get through this time of loss together.
- Technology –- using video apps can connect you face-to-face virtually. When you connect, make sure you listen to the person you’re supporting. Acknowledge their pain and don’t offer advice. Remember, silence is ok too. Schedule regular catch-ups on the preferred platform and stick to the schedule.
- If you find it hard to know what to say, it’s ok to say that. You can ask them how they are and let them talk more than you do. It's ok to say the name of the person who died. Or if they don't want to talk about it now, let them know you’re there to listen whenever they’d like to. You can also offer practical support and take over a prepared meal, help with the laundry, babysitting or grocery shopping if it’s safe to do so within the current Alert Level restrictions.
- Reach out, make yourself available not just in the short term but in the weeks and months to come.
During Alert Levels 3 and 4, counselling and grief counselling is available by virtual or telephone appointments where possible. For more information and to find a counsellor please see:
The New Zealand Association of Counsellors
New Zealand Psychological Society
New Zealand College of Clinical Psychologists
Grief Support Services (Tauranga)
Free 24/7 Phone Helplines
Free call or text 1737 anytime to talk to a trained counsellor.
Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or free text 4357 (HELP)
Youthline – 0800 376 633 or free text 234
Samaritans – 0800 726 666
Please see the Mental Health Foundation website for more helplines.