Getting support for grief

Rongoā healers, tohunga, spiritual practitioners, and health professionals can support the grieving process. Sometimes whānau pani (bereaved whānau) may need to contact someone if they feel they need support to help them express their grief or they are feeling overwhelmed by their emotions and physical symptoms (sometimes the body tells us that we are grieving by creating physical symptoms or pain to draw our attention).


Some regions may have services that provide free counselling and hospices and some Funeral Services may offer these services for free. If you are reading this and you are struggling with grief perhaps try talking to a whānau member, friend, kaumātua, rongoā healer or a General Practitioner (G.P) to get support, or you can reach out to a trusted health professional you know.

Whaea T. commented in her Pae Herenga interview that there is an increasing need for whānau to use rongoā for healing, particularly when one loss gets stacked on top of another loss:

There was a lot of need for [rongoā support] yeah, like the grief and loss, the underlying anxiety you know for our people. Because a lot of it is not depression - there’s a lot of unresolved issues and the sadness is- a lot of it is, it’s just about, hopelessness… But a lot of features of anxiety… finding out what, what those types of anxieties [are], a lot of it is post-trauma stuff… A lot of things happening in their life.

Kaumātua Arena who provides spiritual support to awhi his whānau and community identified that karakia takes place when a person has passed over, and when the whānau has had a little bit of time to process their initial grief by having a tangi (cry):

First and foremost is that karakia you know… but we give it time for them to- we let them grieve you know. We let them cry. And ah, it’s no good having a karakia when they’re hurting right there and then, so you let them cry…

Vanessa (hospice worker and rongoā practitioner) talked about some of the difficulties grieving whānau face:

I think it’s important to have different choices for whānau. Not everybody can articulate their needs. Not everybody can understand their needs. And not everybody can recognise that the behaviours or the challenges that they’re exhibiting or dealing with are grief related either. Or that it’s kind of an insidious thing that can sort of simmer there and then something will trigger it and it will bubble up, or it will push a whole bunch of harder rubbish up on top of it and I think that’s one of the stinkers about grief.

Vanessa shares her views on what she can does in her role to help whānau:

So, what can help them? I think we need to have a range of things because not everybody can say what they need or figure out what they are. One on one counselling does it for some, doesn’t do it for others. I would really love to see rongoā Māori and rongoā healing and wairua experiences become normal choices. I think with those sorts of healing people are able to have a sense of a weight lifted off, but they don’t necessarily have to intellectualise or understand what it is, they can just feel it. And that is good. So, I think that’s good.

Vanessa reflected that she may be asked by the hospice counsellor to tautoko a counselling session:

A counsellor will be doing a session with somebody (one gentleman I’m thinking of in particular), and she’s an enlightened Pākehā counsellor. And she came to me and said, ‘Ness, look there’s something going on here and I don’t know what it is. There’s a bit of a blockage, you know. I’ve asked if you’re available are you able to come in and say ‘hello and just have a chat and see what’s going on?’ Yeah, to tautoko that.

So, I went in to say ‘hello’ and meet him and get a bit more an idea of, you know, what was happening for him or how I could help. But the counsellor told me that she could see he ‘visibly relaxed the moment I walked in the room.’ He was talking, he was affectionate, he was reaching out to touch and, you know, I could ask questions. She didn’t know the right questions to ask, I suppose that’s one thing. Not being Māori, she didn’t know about some of those weights or responsibilities and things.

His father had died actually, and he was feeling the weight of it afterwards and the responsibility that he had; but he didn’t know how to fulfil the responsibilities, and that was the issue for him. Yeah, so, in that instance, you know, we shared, we explored.

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