What is grief?

Grief is a normal response to loss. The process of grieving is one of gradually adjusting to the loss and working out how to live without the person who has died.

There is no set time frame, and the grief may never go away completely, but with support and understanding you will find a way forward.

Learn more about how:

Everyone grieves differently

Everyone responds to loss in their own way and in their own time. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.

You may experience grief when someone close to you dies or after another significant loss, such as the loss of a relationship, a job, a pet, your good health, your way of life or treasured possessions. Here we focus on grief after a death from cancer, but much of the information applies to any type of grief.

Grief is not an illness and does not need to be fixed, but it can be a confusing and overwhelming experience causing strong emotional and physical reactions. You may find it helpful to learn more about common grief reactions and ways of coping.

How you experience grief depends on a number of things, such as:

  • your age and gender
  • your personality
  • the circumstances of the death
  • your relationship with the person who died
  • the support you have from other people
  • how much your life will change as a result of the death
  • the losses you have had in the past
  • your cultural background, including any rituals or customs associated with death
  • your spiritual view of life and death.

Sometimes people find that a death brings back memories of other losses, and they feel they are grieving those again as well.

Family members mourning for the same person may misunderstand each other’s ways of grieving. Some people express grief through crying and talking, others prefer to keep busy or shut the world out. People may behave differently at different times. It is important to respect individual ways of grieving and not take reactions personally. This can be an opportunity to offer mutual support.

We usually grieve in the same way as we live, so people who tend to cope during tough times often find that they show this resilience after a loss. This does not mean they are not grieving, but they already have coping strategies. Thinking about what has helped you deal with stressful events in the past may help you now.

Bereavement, mourning and grief 
The terms bereavement and mourning are closely related to grief, but they have slightly different meanings. Bereavement usually refers to the fact that you have experienced a loss. Mourning is the outward expression of sorrow for the loss, often influenced by cultural customs and rituals. Grief is the internal process of responding to the loss and it can affect all parts of your life.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on understanding grief.

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059


To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in April 2017
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Support services

Caring for someone with cancer
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum

Cancer Council Online Community
A community forum – a safe place to share stories, get tips and connect with people who understand

Cancer information

Emotions and cancer
People who are affected by cancer in some way can experience a range of emotions, that can be very challenging to deal with at times. Learn more.

End of life 
This information may help you better cope with end of life, or support someone who may be dying with cancer