Grief and Bereavement

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When someone you care about dies, it is natural to experience grief.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve. The depth of your grief does not reflect the extent of your feelings for that person. You may feel relieved that the person’s suffering is over or relieved that your role as carer is over. You may also feel that the hole in the world left by your loved one will never be filled and wonder how you can go on.

Just as every relationship is unique, so is every bereavement.

For members of our LGBTQ+ communities, the grieving process may be complicated by stigma and prejudice. This can be particularly difficult following the death of a partner.

If you or your partner’s families of origin did not support or recognise the relationship, or don’t understand or recognise polyamorous relationships or other types of “non-traditional” families, you may not be included in the end of life/funeral arrangements or acknowledged as the person’s partner. Your loved one may also be misgendered in death.

Therefore, it is particularly important for LGBTQ+ people to make end-of-life plans before they need to be acted upon. See our section on Death Planning for more information.

Not being recognised or included during end-of-life arrangements can be really distressing and isolating. If you are able, you may wish to draw on your community to hold separate end-of-life celebrations with supportive chosen family and friends.

The death of a loved one might also be the first time that family, friends, and your wider networks learn of the relationship, and the sexuality and/or gender identity of yourself and/or your partner.

Having to deal with this ‘coming out’ process whist grieving can be very distressing. For example, if you have not disclosed your own sexuality or the gender of your partner at work, it can be incredibly difficult to inform them that your partner has died. People may not acknowledge the depth of your grief or ignore the subject altogether.

Grief and bereavement in later life can also be trivialised by a society that values youth, and for cultures that are socialised to not openly display emotions, people experiencing grief and bereavement may feel obligated to keep their feelings to themselves.

Bereavement Across Cultures

Each culture has its own rituals, practices, and customs to accompany a death; these customs support the bereaved persons to process their loss and allow the community to support the bereaved.

Families from multiple cultural backgrounds may incorporate elements of different cultures into their mourning practices. Some people may wish to observe the practices of religion, faith, or belief, even though religion may not have played a part in their daily lives.

Sorry business is an English language expression used by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to refer to the time following the loss of a loved one, and the practices and ceremonies that accompany the bereavement process and guide the spirit of the lost loved one to the afterlife. It’s an important and sacred time, with funerals often involving entire communities and friends and relatives traveling long distances to attend. Some tribes and nations won’t speak or write the name of their loved one, or share images of them for the first 12 months following a death.

Some traditions are observed across disparate cultures – for example, covering or removing mirrors in the home of the deceased is seen in many Chinese, Jewish, and Russian Orthodox mourning practices. You can read more about mourning practices across cultures here.

Writer Sue Ratowski, who was excluded from funeral arrangements when her girlfriend of almost 15 years died, offers the following suggestions for processing grief:

  • Look for a place to put your pain. Create a memory box with notes, cards, mementoes, and souvenirs of your love. Write a letter and say all the things you wished you had time to say.
  • Schedule a grieving session with yourself every day or week until the rushing river begins to subside a bit.
  • Consider joining a grief group but wait for the loss to really settle in -- that could take four to six months. 
  • A naming opportunity offers much solace. Find a charity building a walkway or other structure and buy a brick, for example, with your loved one's name on it. If this is not an option, plant a flowering shrub or tree to honour your lost love. Watch it flourish and blossom every spring.
  • Plan holidays and special dates of observance in advance so you won't be alone or succumb to last minute plans with callous people who do not, will not or cannot acknowledge your loss.
  • Join organisations, get involved. You might be able to help someone who is also grieving this traumatic death of a love.
  • Be grateful for the time you spent with this cherished partner. Your life was better for having them in your world. It changed you, it shaped you. Take the golden moments with you.


The National Association for Loss and Grief (NSW) 

Offer grief support by telephone, although they are not a crisis centre.  

They also offer a variety of brochures on dealing with various forms of grief


Factsheet on grief reactions following the death of an LGBTIQ partner. 


Providing mental health support for LGBTQ people and people with HIV by providing a range of counselling services and a care coordination program. 

Q Life  

Provides Australia-wide anonymous, LGBTI peer support and referral for people wanting to talk about a range of issues including sexuality, identity, gender, bodies, feelings or relationships. 

Twenty 10 

A Sydney based service working across New South Wales, providing a broad range of specialised services for LGBTQIA+ people 12-25 including counselling. 

Reach Out 

Delivering digital mental health and wellbeing programs, backed by an in-house digital team. 


A national charity providing all Australians experiencing emotional distress with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. 

Beyond Blue 

Provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live. 

Find out more

Definitions | Ageing as an LGBTQ+ Person  | Needing CareDeath PlanningGrief and Bereavement | Caring for OthersMoney MattersResources  


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