A trauma expert says delaying the return of the bodies from the the Pike River coal mine may delay the families' recovery.
Professor Beverley Raphael is a psychiatrist who heads a specialist research unit in Sydney that tackles mental health issues associated with disasters.
She says the tragedy will have a terrible impact on the small, tight-knit community, where mining is essential to the economy.
Professor Raphael says people who have not been able to say goodbye to their loved ones, often nurse hope in strange ways.
She says the impact will be compounded by the absence of the bodies, which will only add to the stress on the families and may mean the grief process is drawn out.
Professor Raphael also says it's important that community members rally and support one another by providing practical and emotional support.
Meanwhile, an Anglican minister says he hopes the West Coast community will face up to its grief, rather than turning to things like alcohol or drugs.
Archdeacon Robin Kingston says at the moment the community is grieving very deeply.
He says turning to drugs or alcohol is one way of coping with grief.
But he hopes people will work through their feelings by attending church services and talking about events, rather than ignoring them.