It is a stressful and emotional time when someone you love has died and while you are grieving you might also have some challenging tasks to do.
This page provides information and advice on a wide range of practical matters you are likely to need to attend to after a sudden death. You can also download a copy of our helpful guides After a death: dealing with practical matters and After a homicide: Answers to common questions
Blessing the site
For some families, whānau, and communities, a ceremonial blessing of the site where a person has died is an important step in helping them come to terms with the tragic loss of life. It is an acknowledgement of the spiritual impact of the tragedy on so many people. It commends the spirit of the person who has died and respects the dignity of them, and of their family, whānau, and community.
A blessing usually includes a simple prayer or karakia. For Māori, a blessing can include a clearing of the tapu on the site. Different cultural and faith groups bring their own approaches.
The blessing may be led by Maori kaumātua, another spiritual, cultrual or community leader, or someone the family or whānau invites.
Some family or whānau members may want to visit the scene and be part of a blessing ceremony, and others may not. You can choose to hold the blessing privately or open it to whoever would like to come, including from your community.
If you are an immediate family or whānau member and would like to arrange a blessing of the site, you could contact your local church or faith centre, your local marae, your cultural leaders, the police officer who has been working with the family, a Police Iwi Liaison Officer, or speak to your Support Worker.
If you don't personally know the family or whānau but witnessed or discovered the death, you can speak to a Support Worker if you'd like to possibly attend any blessing of the site that is being arranged.
If the person has died overseas
Advice and information is available from New Zealand embassies in the country concerned and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade can help you. They can liaise with police in New Zealand and the country the person died in about the local investigation and justice process.
They 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 New Zealand.
If a person’s body or their ashes are being returned to New Zealand
The immediate family need to ask a New Zealand funeral director and a funeral director in the country where the death occurred to work together to look after all the necessary arrangements. All costs involved must be paid for by the immediate family.
To find a funeral director to assist with repatriation go to:
For requirements when bringing the person’s ashes into New Zealand go to NZ Custom Services
For details on how to get an urgent passport if you need to travel overseas to attend the person’s funeral or tangihanga go to: New Zealand Passports
Air New Zealand offers some compassionate flights, see their website for more information.
Managing media interest after a homicide
Our information sheet, After a homicide: Managing media Interest can provide some helpful guidelines.
Your Support Worker can talk with you about financial assistance that may be available to you. You can call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected with a Support Worker.
Other useful resources and websites
What you need to do when someone dies (New Zealand Government)
Victim Support has developed a helpful information handbook for those affected by homicide, in partnership with Skylight. You can see a PDF version of it here or ask your Support Worker for a printed copy.