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  • Writer's pictureJill Ball

Dr Sally Hunter - Grief

How to Help those who are Grieving


Sally is my sister, who I love very much. Sadly, I'm not able to visit her very often, as she emigrated to Australia when I was in my twenties, after a family death.

She set up Balgowlah Counselling Centre in Sydney, and worked as a counsellor for several years, before becoming Conjoint Lecturer at the University of Newcastle, Australia.

She is a published author, and I am immensely proud of her.


a photo of my sister, Sally, smiling

A Model of Grieving

Mourning is a universal experience, although it varies from one culture to another.

Western cultures have adopted a particular model of the grieving process, developed by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in relation to anticipatory grieving. She observed that dying patients went through various stages in their journey: initially they experienced shock and disbelief, often followed by a period of anger.

They might try to bargain with their God and make promises to change, before feeling a sense of deep sadness. The ultimate aim was to reach a state of acceptance, but people often cycled back through the various stages and some never found peace or reached a state of grace.

Personal Grief

When my own baby daughter died of a cot death in England many years ago, aged only eleven weeks old, I found little comfort in these ideas. I knew that I was supposed to go through a period of grieving and come to a state of acceptance of her death.

I certainly felt the initial stage of shock and disbelief and went through an extended period of thinking “if only I had noticed something was wrong” or ‘if only I could have prevented her death”.

My family moved to the other side of the world within six months of her death – even though making such a big life change is not recommended by any of the experts.

After that, I certainly experienced an extended period of deep sadness.

But how could I ever accept her death and “move on” with my life?

A Different Model of Grieving

A more recent model of grieving was developed by Klaus, Silverman and Nickman and helped me to come to terms with my daughter’s death, eventually.

They suggested that grieving is a perfectly natural state, as is maintaining a continuing bond with your loved one. It is not necessary to “let go”. In fact, it is better to redefine your relationship with your loved one and incorporate their memory into your life in some way, often through rituals.

This was so much easier for me than trying to detach from her memory and she remains an important member of our family who is remembered by us all, especially on her birthday and the anniversary of her death.

So how do we help people when they are grieving?

I suggest the following ideas:

  • Listen, listen, listen

as those who are grieving need to tell the same stories over and over again

  • Be patient

as grieving can take a long time,

especially if the relationship with the deceased is complex

  • Accept the mourner’s feelings

– whether they are sad, angry, anxious or in disbelief

  • Remain in contact for a long time,

when everyone else has moved on and wants things to go back to normal

  • Recognise the difference between sadness and depression

and encourage the mourner to seek help if they have slipped from sadness into depression



a photo of my niece, Rosanna

Dedicated to the memory of

Rosanna Stewart Hunter

24.11.1985 - 14.2.1986



wild flowers to symbolise mourning

My other sister, Anne, has also shared her experiences of loss and given practical advice


165 views2 comments


Jill Ball
Jill Ball
Jul 11, 2020

I am still sad that we lost Rosanna so young.

Thank you for sharing your experience, Sally.


Jul 10, 2020

Thank you, Sally.

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