After the loss of a loved one

Adjusting to the loss of your loved one will be a sad and difficult time for your family and friends, and we extend our sincerest sympathy on your loss.

Whether your loved one’s death was due to an ongoing illness or was unexpected, our Fiona Stanley Hospital and Fremantle Hospital (external site) are here to help. 

You will be offered access to support from social workers, pastoral care staff, and our nursing and medical staff.

We will also try to assist you with practical information and answer any questions you may have.

What to do now

Some matters need to be managed immediately, including:

  • contacting a funeral director
  • organ and tissue donation considerations
  • managing your initial grief and sense of loss, including that of children in your family.

Other issues can be managed in the days and weeks that follow, including:

  • supporting your ongoing wellbeing
  • getting the death certificate
  • managing your loved one’s estate as advised in their will
  • notifying service providers.
Viewing your loved one

Some people find it comforting to see their loved one after they have died. This is called a viewing, and it is a personal choice. Other family members may prefer to view their loved one later at the funeral home.

Fiona Stanley Hospital

Fiona Stanley Hospital provide a brief opportunity for family and friends to remain in the room with their loved one before they are moved to the mortuary.

A viewing suite is also available at Fiona Stanley Hospital, and you may go alone, with family and friends or with support from hospital staff. To request to see your loved one in the viewing suite, please contact the mortuary staff by phoning the Helpdesk on 6152 2222.

Fremantle Hospital

Fremantle Hospital provides a brief opportunity for family and friends to remain in the room with their loved one before they are moved to the mortuary.

Contacting a funeral director

Unless the coroner needs to be involved (see below), you need to contact a funeral director of your choice as soon as possible to arrange collection of your loved one. Until you make plans with your chosen funeral director, you can take comfort knowing the hospital will care for your loved one.

The funeral director will:

  • oversee the issuing of a medical certificate cause of death from the hospital
  • work with your family to organise the death certificate and make funeral arrangements.

Your loved one’s will may contain instructions about their funeral preferences. Read about organising a funeral or memorial service (external site).

For sudden and unexplained deaths

Hospital post-mortems

Sometimes a hospital doctor will request a post-mortem (an examination of your loved one’s body) to better understand their condition, rather than determine the cause of death.

This cannot be done without consent from your loved one’s next-of-kin.

For sudden and unexplained deaths

If your loved one died from apparently unnatural causes or the cause of death is unknown, the Office of the State Coroner will investigate the death. An officer will come to the hospital to inform your family about the coronial process.

Please note that your loved one cannot be touched or moved, including by hospital staff, without the coroner’s consent. A member of staff also needs to remain with them at all times until they are moved to the mortuary.

Read more about when a death is referred to the coroner (external site).

About organ and tissue donation

A person who has died (a donor) may choose to donate their organs or tissues to replace those of other people through a life-saving medical procedure called a transplant. Read more about organ and tissue donation (Healthy WA).

The way in which a person dies affects which organs and tissue can be donated. Even if organ donation is not possible, it may be possible for eye and/or tissue donation to occur.

There are often limited time frames in which these decisions can be made, and your loved one’s wishes about donation may have been discussed already throughout their hospital stay.

If you are aware of your loved one’s wish to donate and you have not been approached by our staff, please seek assistance from any member of their treating team.

For any further information your hospital team can request a donor coordinator contact you, immediately if required. You can also contact DonateLife on 1800 950 155.

Please remember your loved one’s medical and nursing staff, as well as a donation specialist, will be available to support and inform you and ensure your loved one’s care, dignity and respect are always maintained.

Managing your grief and loss

Grief is a natural response to loss and is a healing process that takes time. Everyone’s grief is unique and there is no fixed timeline. You may experience a wide range of emotions and feelings, including:

  • sadness
  • anger
  • frustration
  • confusion
  • fear
  • helplessness.

It is normal for grief to be accompanied by a range of physical symptoms including:

  • nausea
  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • an inability to concentrate.

The intensity of these symptoms usually declines over time and varies from person to person. Some symptoms may require medical help – if you have concerns, check with your general practitioner (GP).

As you come to terms with your loss, it is important to be accepting and understand that you will likely feel many emotions. This can feel confusing at times, but talking about your thoughts and feelings with someone who understands and has time to listens can be helpful.

Seek a support system that may include family, friends, relatives and support organisations.

Talking with children about loss

Many people hesitate to talk about death with children, but death is a fact of life and it is important children know that it is ok to talk about it.

What you say about the death of a loved one, and how you say, it depends upon the age and experience of the children involved.

The following tips can be helpful at this time.

  • Answer your child’s questions honestly and as simply as possible while being sensitive to their feelings.
  • Do not use generalisations such as your loved one has ‘gone to sleep’ or ‘gone away. It is easy for your child to misinterpret what these words and this can cause uncertainty and fear.
  • Young children may need to ask the same question, and hear the same answers, more than once to begin to understand what has happened.
  • Reassure your child that they and other family members cannot ‘catch’ the illness your loved one had.
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, the best response is to say that you don’t know.
  • Respect your child’s thoughts and feelings – do not tell them how to act or react.
  • Reassure your child that they are loved and will continue to be cared for.
  • Ensure as much consistency and continuity in your child’s life as possible. It is important to let your child know that it is okay to play and continue enjoying their daily activities.
  • Talking about your loved one can help everyone with their grief. Your loved one was real and not perfect, and it can be helpful to share both good and not-so-good memories of your loved one
  • Consider involving your child in planning the funeral. You may wish to encourage your child to make a scrapbook containing photographs or mementos.
Other issues to be managed

Supporting your ongoing wellbeing

After the loss of a loved one it is not unusual to experience personal and family difficulties.

To assist you through the grieving process you may wish to consider talking with:

  • your GP
  • a qualified counsellor
  • a social worker
  • a chaplain or your community of faith
  • other people who have experienced similar loss

In Western Australia, there are many services to support you in your time of grief (external site).

Getting the death certificate

All deaths need to be registered with Births, Deaths and Marriages within 14 days. For more information:


Your loved one’s will may contain instructions about their funeral plans and the management of their estate. Read more about will and probate (external site).

For more information contact the:

Organising the funeral

Planning your loved one’s funeral is one of the first tasks you need to manage. Read more about organising a funeral or memorial service (external site).

Notifying service providers

As well as sharing with family and friends the news of your loved one’s death, there are other people, agencies and organisations you may need to notify.

This can include:

  • government agencies services such as Centrelink, Medicare and the Department of Veterans Affairs
  • banks, insurance and superannuation providers
  • utility providers (power, gas, phone)
  • property and vehicle licensing agencies

Cancelling or transferring services can take time, but doing it as soon as is practical can help save on account fees and unwanted mail.

Find more about who you may need to notify and how (external site).

More information

Speak with your treating team or ask to speak with a social worker.