- Cancer Information
- Caring for someone with advanced cancer
- When the person you care for dies
When the person you care for dies
After the person dies, you may feel a range of emotions, including:
- numbness and shock, or a sense of disbelief, even if you thought you were prepared
- relief that the person is no longer in pain
- shock that you feel relieved to be free of the burden of caring and can now make plans for your future
- anger towards the doctors or the hospital, your god or the person who died
- questioning whether there were things that you or the treatment team could have done differently to prolong life or make things better for the person
- guilt about things you did or didn’t do, about not being there at the time of death, or about how you are feeling
- anxiety about the future – what will you do or how will you manage financially.
All these reactions are common. These emotions may come and go and change over time. Support groups (face-to-face, telephone or online) or counselling can help you get through times when your grief seems overwhelming. You do not need to rush to make decisions about your life.
There are many services available to help with the practical and legal aspects of the person’s death. Services Australia has a useful checklist of who may need to be notified. Visit Services Australia and search for “What to do when someone dies”.
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Dr Laura Kirsten, Principal Clinical Psychologist, Nepean Cancer Care Centre, NSW; Mary Bairstow, Senior Social Worker, Cancer Centre, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; Anne Booms, Nurse Practitioner – Supportive and Palliative Care, Icon Cancer Centre Midland, WA; Dr Erica Cameron-Taylor, Staff Specialist, Department of Palliative Care, Mercy Hospice, Calvary Mater Newcastle, NSW; Tracey Gardner, Senior Psychologist, Cancer Counselling Service, Cancer Council Queensland; Louise Good, Cancer Nurse Consultant, WA; Verity Jausnik, Senior Policy Officer, Carers Australia; David Larkin, Cancer Supportive Care Manager, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, Canberra Hospital and Health Service, ACT; Kate Martin, Consumer; John McMath, Consumer; Simone Noelker, Physiotherapist and Wellness Centre Coordinator, Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre, VIC; Tara Redemski, Senior Physiotherapist – Cancer Care, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Dean Rowe, Consumer; Chris Sibthorpe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland.
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Support for carers
Cancer Council NSW offers carers support online, over the phone and in person and can link you to our practical support services, including support groups for bereaved carers
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