Once the rituals of death have been observed -- the flowers faded and the burial over -- the mourning process may just begin. Throughout the grieving period, of months or years, it may be helpful to seek counseling or ongoing support from others sharing similar experiences.

Among this area's many resources:

* The St. Francis Center (1768 Church St. NW): Nondenominational counseling, education, support and referral organization working with bereavement, separation and loss. Also aids those faced with life-threatening illnesses and their families, provides crisis-intervention counseling and will help in planning funeral arrangements. Headed by Father William A. Wendt, staffed by professional counselors and trained volunteers. Professional counseling fees based on a sliding scale. Call: 234-5613.

The center's CARING program will send trained volunteers to people needing support. Free. CARING hotline, 387-4488.

* St. Alban's Parish (Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues): The Rev. Vienna Anderson leads widow and widower groups when interest is expressed by two or three people.

A course, "What To Do When You Don't Know What To Do," taught by the Rev. Anderson and intern seminarian Susan B. Curtis, through Feb. 6. Focus on how people respond to each other in times of crisis. Fee, $5.: Three participation workshops on bereavement and separation, led by the Revs. Anderson and Wendt, scheduled for April and May. For more information: 363-8286.

* Jewish Social Service Agency (6123 Montrose Rd., Rockville): Social workers lead small, nondenominational workshops for bereaved adults, once a week for five weeks. Fee, about $30. Workshops on "A Death in the Family" planned for spring in Rockville and Northern Virginia. 881-3700.

* Mt. Vernon Center for Community Mental Health (8119 Holland Rd., Alexandria): Four-session seminar on loss for bereaved persons or counseling professionals. Scheduled Thursdays, 3 to 5 p.m., beginning tomorrow. Fee, $45. Six-session seminar for the widowed scheduled Thursdays, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., beginning Feb. 18. Fee, $45. For information on both, 360-6910.

* University of Maryland Counseling Center (College Park): Psychologist Arnold Medvene leads weekly support group for students who have lost one or both parents. Open to full and part-time University of Maryland students. 454-2043.

* Compassionate Friends: Program for bereaved parents, with several chapters in the area, all under umbrella of the Baltimore chapter in Timonium, Md. Monthly meetings, no fee. For more information, call Barbara Hale, 301-268-1360 in Anne Arundel County, or the Baltimore chapter, 301-321-7053.

* Haven (7300 McWhorter Pl., Annandale): All-volunteer organization to assist the bereaved. Individuals assigned a trained volunteer to help during immediate crisis, with follow-up in support groups. Haven currently runs two groups, one for widows and widowers and another for parents who have lost a child. For information, call director Gloria Dowd, 941-7000.

* Parents Without Partners: Washington-area groups sponsor activities and discussions for widows and widowers; some include entire family. In D.C., 638-1320; Fairfax, 435-9187; Alexandria, 360-1474.

* Parents of Murdered Children (headquartered in Cincinnati, 513-242-8025.) Self-help organization for parents, to help them deal with their loss and with the police and judicial system. For those interested in forming a Washington group, call Barbara Rhian through St. Francis Center, 234-5613.

* Social Work Department of the Children's Hospital National Medical Center: Assigns social workers to families of patients. 745-3070.

* Churches, synagogues and other religious organizations. The Islamic Center (2551 Massachusetts Ave. NW.), for example, offers Koranic counseling and assistance with funeral arrangements to Moslems and families. 332-3451.