Practical information
Support through bereavement

Support through bereavement

If you or anyone else is in immediate danger, call emergency services on 111.

  • If you’re in danger but it’s not safe to talk, call 111, stay silent, and follow the instructions to connect to police.
  • If you’re calling from a mobile, stay silent and listen for the 'press 55' prompt for help.
  • If you’re calling from a landline, stay silent and follow the operator’s instructions to press any button for help.
  • If you have hearing or speech difficulties, register for the New Zealand Police 111 TXT service so you can text Police, Fire or Ambulance in an emergency.
  • If English is not your primary language, Victim Support can use Connecting Now to connect with an interpreter over the phone. Call us on 0800 842 846 and let us know which language you need. Victim Support can also try and match you with a Support Worker who speaks your primary language.
  • To make a quick exit from this page click on the Quick Exit button on the top right. Go to the Hide my visit page to learn how to hide evidence of your visit to this site.

You may qualify for financial assistance under the Victim Assistance Scheme (VAS) which helps victims of serious crime by contributing to costs related to the crime, the justice process and recovery.

For more information you can contact your Support Worker, call us directly on 0800 842 846 or visit our Financial assistance page.

handshake icon

The justice system can be complicated and unfamiliar but knowing what to expect can help. We can help you understand and engage with the justice system, answer any questions you have, and be there for you if you want someone to listen.

We can support you with:

  • Rights and information. We’ll help you understand your rights, provide information, and support you to make informed choices.
  • Justice system. We’ll explain the justice system and help you navigate each step, including supporting you at key moments during court, parole hearings, coronial inquests and family group or restorative justice conferences. We can help you prepare a Victim Impact Statement or apply to be on the Victim Notification Register.
  • Linking with other agencies and support. We’ll help you liaise with police, courts and other government agencies.

You can call us or visit our How we can help page to find out more about who we are, how we can help you and how to access our support.

Heart icon

If you or others have been injured, see a doctor, go to a hospital emergency department or call an ambulance on 111 regardless of whether you decide to report the incident or not.

A professional medical assessment can help your recovery and ensure physical safety.

Depending on the incident, consider having the doctor prepare a medical report that can be shared with police, if you are comfortable doing that.

After what’s happened the media may want to get comments or interview you, your family, whānau, close friends or any witnesses.  Media can sometimes feel demanding and intrusive during stressful times but it’s your decision if you want to speak to them or not and what you feel comfortable sharing.

These situations can seem very unjust and unfair and can cause both grief and trauma. There is an overlap between these two reactions but there are also some differences. Grief is a normal reaction to loss, featuring a range of responses that stem from sadness. Trauma is a normal reaction to an abnormal event, featuring a range of responses that stem from fear and anxiety.

To help them cope through what’s happened, provide a safe and supportive space for children and young people to process their thoughts in their own way and reassure them it’s not their fault.

Family, whānau and friends can suddenly be called on to help someone who is a victim, witness, or has been bereaved by a crime or a traumatic event. Your caring support can help the person feel more able to cope and begin to recover. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do or say and you may be feeling stressed by their situation as well. Being there to listen and taking care of yourself along the way helps.

Any sudden death that is unexpected, violent or suspicious will be investigated by a coroner. Coroners are responsible for determining the details surrounding the death, including how, where, when, and why it occurred. This information is important in listing the cause of death on the official death certificate. It is a complex process that can vary according to the different circumstances of the death but is handled carefully and respectfully by those involved.

For many, a ceremonial blessing of the site where a person has died is an essential part of processing the loss. It acknowledges of the spiritual impact of the tragedy and protects and guides the spirit of the deceased. It respects and honours the dignity of the deceased person, their family, whānau, and community.

For Māori, it can include lifting of the tapu on the site and karakia. Other cultural and faith groups have their own unique blessing ceremonies. Some family or whānau members may choose to visit the scene and be part of a blessing ceremony and others may not. They may prefer to hold a private blessing or open it to whomever would like to come, including from the community.

If you are an immediate family or whānau member wishing to organise a blessing for the site, you could contact your kaumātua, local marae, church or faith centre, the police officer who has been working with you, a Police Iwi Liaison Officer, or speak to a Support Worker.

If you don't personally know the family or whānau but witnessed or discovered the incident, you can speak to a Support Worker if you'd like to attend a blessing, provided it is open to the public and the family or whānau are comfortable with that.

Advice and information is available from Aotearoa New Zealand embassies in the country concerned and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) can help. They can liaise with New Zealand Police and the country the person died in about the local investigation and justice process.

MFAT can let you know about:

Official processes required in the country the person died in.

Available local burial or cremation options and any requirements that must be met.

Contact details for funeral directors in that country who could manage the funeral or tangihanga.

How you can bring back the person’s body or ashes (repatriation) to Aotearoa New Zealand.

If a person’s body or their ashes are being returned to Aotearoa New Zealand

The immediate family or whānau can ask a funeral director in Aotearoa New Zealand about the options they have for arranging for their loved one's body or ashes to be repatriated (brought back to New Zealand).

Urgent travel

If you live overseas but the death of someone close to you has happened in Aotearoa New Zealand, the bereaved family or whānau are able to access some assistance here in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Manaaki Tāngata | Victim Support
Call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected to a Support Worker for assistance.

The Ministry of Justice's Victims Information Centre
Find information, advice and support. Contact them here.

Support through the criminal justice system
Look in this directory to find a New Zealand lawyer

Some financial support
ACC may accept a claim for accidental death which would provide financial support to cover some costs when the death of a New Zealander has been confirmed by police as murder or manslaughter. If you're overseas contact ACC on +64 7 848 7400

Your chosen funeral director can do as little or as much as you want them to do. Talk with your funeral director about what you would like, including any cultural or religious rituals you want honoured. Ask them about costs and payment options, so you can make choices that are manageable.

A funeral director helps bereaved families and whānau in several ways, including:

collecting the person’s body from the mortuary and caring for them at their funeral home until burial or cremation

providing information about necessary legal requirements after a death

registering the death and helping families get a copy of the death certificate

explaining how you can bring back the person’s body or ashes (repatriation) to Aotearoa New Zealand.

preparing the body for viewing if the family wishes this and it is possible

fulfilling the family’s choices for the funeral, tangihanga (tangi), or memorial event

checking if the person’s legal will requested certain funeral arrangements

organising cremation or burial procedures that meet necessary requirements

helping families apply for financial assistance, if needed

If you and your immediate family or whānau prefer to organise a burial or cremation without a funeral director

The Victim Notification Register provides victims of serious crimes with notifications about what's happening to the person that offended against them as they move through the justice system. This includes their Parole Board hearings, temporary prison releases, home detention, hospital detention or prison release date.

To receive notifications and be kept informed, victims must apply to be listed on the Victim Notification Register. Victims are also able to nominate someone else as a representative to receive the notification on their behalf.

A victim can apply to be on the register at any stage after an offender has been charged.

The Police determine a victim’s eligibility to be on the Register and the Department of Corrections runs the confidential Register service.

A Victim Impact Statement is your opportunity to tell the court and the offender how the crime has personally affected you as a victim - emotionally, physically, financially, socially and psychologically, and in your daily life. This is a different statement to the one you gave to police after the crime occurred.

A Victim Impact Statement helps the court understand your views about the offending and the information you provide, if you decide to make a statement, will be considered by the judge when the offender is being sentenced.

The tragic death of someone close to us is always distressing, and when it happens unexpectedly or in some cases violently, it can be even more challenging. We might hear the news from others or have witnessed the person’s death ourselves, and the shock can leave us unsure about what we need to do.

A lot needs to happen within the first few days after a death and many people and agencies become involved. They understand how distressing this time is will support you through it respectfully and with care.

Support is here for you when things get tough. You don't have to face it alone. Reach out to these confidential and non-judgmental services to discuss your situation and get the help you need.


Free 24/7 helpline for counselling support for anyone who is stressed, needs someone to talk to, or is feeling overwhelmed.

Aoake te Rā | Bereaved by Suicide Service

Free service that provides support and manaaki to individuals, whānau, and communities who have lost someone to suicide.

Depression NZ

Free 24/7 depression helpline and information and resources to help individuals dealing with depression in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Family Services Directory

Directory of nationwide support providers who can help families and whānau cope with common issues and problems.

Lifeline Aotearoa

Free 24/7 helpline to support the emotional wellbeing of New Zealanders and connect people to support that helps them cope through a difficult situation.

Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand

Nationwide directory of GPs, mental health counsellors and services, and information for anyone in need of mental health support.

New Zealand Relay

Helps people who are deaf, hard of hearing, speech-impaired, and deafblind to connect with support services over the phone.

Skylight Trust

Counselling, resources, and a specialist support library for children, young people, and adults who are experiencing any kind of grief, loss or trauma, including after a homicide or suicide.

Talking Works NZ

A directory of professional counsellors around Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Grief Centre

Services to support children, youth, adults, families, or whānau experiencing any form of significant loss.

The tragic death of someone close to us is always distressing, and when it happens unexpectedly, or in some cases violently, it can be even more challenging to deal with. There is no opportunity to say goodbye and it affects entire families, whānau and communities. We might hear the news from others or have witnessed the person’s death ourselves, and the shock can leave us unsure about what we need to do.

Visit our Crime and traumatic events page for more information and resources to support your circumstances and find practical support here to guide you through the next steps.


Practical matters

A lot needs to happen within the first few days after a death and many people and agencies become involved. They understand how distressing this time is and will support you through it respectfully and with care, enabling you to make decisions and have your needs met.

Bereavement leave and support

Ask your employer about any workplace support available such as bereavement leave, Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) services for counselling and well-being support, or discretionary leave to help you through the tragedy.

Blessing the site


The coronial process


If the person has died overseas


If you live overseas but the death happened in Aotearoa New Zealand


ACC financial assistance

When someone dies in an accident, ACC can provide a range of financial support to the family or whānau of the deceased. This may include helping to pay for the funeral and providing some ongoing financial assistance.

Detailed information can be found on ACC’s financial support after a death webpage or call them on 0800 101 996 if you need help or have any questions.

Letting others know

Sharing the difficult news of a death is challenging and it’s hard to hear. This section offers some suggestions to help you manage the process.

Preparing and delivering the news

It’s important that family, whānau, and friends close to the person hear the news and details about what is known as soon as possible. This is best coming from someone who can do this in a sensitive way and, if possible, it should be done in person or by phone, rather than by text or an online message.

You might want to tell people yourself, or you could ask a trusted member of the family or whānau, or a friend to help do this. It can be hard to deal with other people's reactions so having support can help.

It's helpful to make a list of the people who need to be informed as soon as possible and others who can be informed at a later date, to discuss with your family or whānau what information should be shared and what should be kept private, and to prepare a few words to say in advance.

Dealing with other people’s reactions

Shock can make bad news hard to take in. You may find yourself needing to repeat what you’ve said and people may respond with comments, questions, and a desire for answers. They may also have had a close relationship with the person who has died and are trying to make sense of the situation.

Remember that you are not obligated to provide information or answer questions that you are not comfortable with. It is perfectly acceptable to let people know that you do not wish to discuss certain details or that you need time before sharing more.

Shock can also lead to some individuals feeling unsure about what to say, and they may unintentionally say or do things that are hurtful so having support when you share  the news can help.

Telling children and young people

It can be incredibly hard to tell such sad news to a child or young person. Being honest with them early on protects them from later hearing the news insensitively or incorrectly from others. What they can understand and the questions they’ll ask will depend on their age and stage of development.


Sharing the news on social media

Be careful if you share the news on social media or the internet and you may want to consider taking a break from social media.

  • Make sure those close to the person first hear the news in a personal way.
  • Realise others might spread the news or post things to honour the person. You won’t have control over how they do this.
  • Some comments may be hurtful. Avoid reading them. They’ll add unwanted stress.
  • If you post photos of the person who has died, media can access these and use them. They can also continue to use them for years afterwards, which can cause distress to members of family, whānau, and friends who unexpectedly see images on their loved one used publicly.
  • If the person who died had social media accounts, you may want these to stay active for people to continue posting on or to close them down.

When people offer immediate support

People may offer immediate support, such as helping with daily tasks or errands, which can be kind and beneficial. However, it's important to remember that it's okay to feel overwhelmed and to need some personal space during this time. You can accept offers of help if you feel comfortable, but it's also acceptable to politely decline and express your need for space.

To create a sense of privacy and provide yourself with time to process and grieve, consider using a voicemail message or automatic email reply to communicate that you may be unavailable. You can also postpone reading and responding to letters and messages until you're ready.

If needed, ask visitors to keep their visits brief or indicate on your door that you prefer no visitors. You could also ask someone trusted to deal with calls and visitors on your behalf.

By making these choices, you can give yourself space to think and grieve as you cope with the news yourself.

Your chosen funeral director



When a baby, child or young person has died

The loss of any child, at any age, is devastating. It is always a deep tragedy for parents, siblings, family, whānau, friends, and the community.

The pain can feel unfair and be compounded when the loss has been by suicide, or caused by a crime, traumatic event or sudden death.

Sometimes, babies or young children can die suddenly and unexpectedly, and it might be hard to understand why it happened. Investigations can help figure things out, but it doesn't make it any less difficult to deal with. Sadly, some of these cases happen because of accidents or violence. No matter what caused it, people in these situations need caring emotional and practical support.

There are a number of specialized support services to assist you during this difficult time.

  • Wheturangitia provides information and support for family and whānau experiencing the death of a baby or child.
  • Sands NZ is a national charity that supports anyone affected by the death of a baby before, during or shortly after birth. It is an organisation of parents who have experienced the loss of a baby themselves.
  • Baby Loss NZ supports parents, families and whānau after the death of a baby during pregnancy, at birth or in infancy.


Common reactions and how to cope

The sudden death of a loved one can be a massive shock, with no chance to prepare or to say goodbye. It’s hard to make sense of death in these circumstances and you may be asking yourself why? and what if? Sudden deaths cut across both grief and trauma, so reactions may be intensified and complex.

If you were directly involved in the incident yourself, or witnessed it, you may have been exposed to additional trauma. You may be grieving the loss of more than one person in the incident, be supporting others who were seriously injured,or you may have been seriously injured yourself.

On top of your grief, you may be dealing with shock, disbelief, anger, guilt, horror and a sense of unfairness. Sudden deaths often involve the loss of a young person, so there can be a sense of unfairness that their life has been cut short. When a child is killed, parents may feel guilt that they were unable to protect their child. Sudden deaths may involve an element of violence – the death may have happened in a violent way or the person killed may have sustained violent injuries.

It’s normal to replay what you imagine the person’s last moments were like and to imagine their injuries. These thoughts and images can be intrusive and you may feel you can’t stop them. Research shows that these imaginings are often worse than the reality.



Supporting others

Supporting children and young people

Bereaved children and young people will need ongoing attention, care, reassurance, and loving support from those around them. What they can understand and the questions they’ll ask will depend on their age and stage of development. As children and young people grow and develop, they will respond to their loss in news ways. They may ask new questions sometimes, even years after the death.


Supporting victims, witnesses and the bereaved



Support services




Useful websites and other information


Downloadable resources