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Handbook For Families Affected By Suden Death

News Release 5 December 2008

Handbook For Families Affected By Suden Death

Thousands of New Zealanders are affected by a sudden death every year. Families and friends coping with the unexpected death of a loved one now have a new handbook to help them through one of life’s most stressful times. Death Without Warning is being launched today in Wellington by Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean.

Death Without Warning has been produced by the Wellington-based charitable trust, Skylight, with support from ACC and the Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand. Skylight provides support to children, young people and their families/whānau through trauma, change, loss, and grief, regardless of its cause.

Co-authored by Tricia Irving Hendry, Lynne Ewart and Hazel Neser, Death Without Warning provides practical guidance and support for bereaved families over the days, weeks and months following a sudden death.

Tricia Irving Hendry, Skylight’s Resource and Information Centre Manager, said “Each year, for example, more than 500 people will die as a result of an accident at home, with up to 1,000 more dying unexpectedly as a result of tragic events such as motor vehicle accidents, drownings, suicides, murders or cot death. There is absolutely no way of being prepared to hear the news that someone close to you has suddenly died. It’s incredibly hard.”

Following its original publication in 2003, Death Without Warning now includes updated information that hasn’t previously been available in New Zealand in a single resource. The new edition provides information and support for people affected by any kind of unexpected death, including accidental deaths, the death of a child, murder and suicide.

Death Without Warning covers a wide range of topics including finding help from support services, what the different professionals involved do – including the coroner – what the port-mortem examination is for, organ donation and arranging a funeral. It also helps families through legal issues such as dealing with the Will and the individual’s personal affairs. The book also provides expert information on experiencing shock and grief, caring for grieving children and teens, and post-traumatic stress. The new edition offers all this information in a fresher, more user-friendly format that includes practical checklists and forms.

Personal quotes from New Zealanders affected by an unexpected death are used throughout the book, reiterating how unique every situation, every reaction and every person is. The fact that there is no right or wrong way to react or to grieve is an important message in the book.

ACC Chief Executive Dr Jan White said “We are delighted to be supporting this excellent resource. Our goal is to help New Zealanders wherever we can and this book helps us help them through this most extremely difficult of times. I congratulate Skylight for having the vision to produce such a useful book.”

Tricia Irving Hendry said “Early reviews of the book indicate that we have been able to create a genuinely helpful resource for people. The number of New Zealanders directly affected each year by sudden deaths is significant. This handbook aims to ease their road ahead a little.

“Grief is deeply personal and affects everybody in different ways, so we have developed an all encompassing resource that can be referred to in an ongoing way, as the impacts of the loss and grief are experienced over time.”

Death Without Warning costs $9 and is available through Skylight. To purchase, or for more information, please contact Skylight on 0800 299 100, email or visit the online shop at


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