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Grief Talk

Even though death and grief will cross our path at some point during our lifetime, we don’t really talk about it.


And even though we might have a vague and abstract awareness that life is finite, we tend to push this knowledge to the recesses and dark corners of our mind.


So when death makes an appearance in our lives, it often feels shocking and unbelievable. It makes it difficult to breathe and stops us in our tracks. We might feel overwhelmed and in denial and numb. We might rage and cry or do and feel nothing.


The grief we feel can be difficult to put into words. It’s big - it can feel like a living, breathing beast, a torrent of difficult emotions that sweeps us along, leaving us feeling tired, exhausted and bereft.


Grief can be complicated and disenfranchised. When society or people around us don’t understand or recognise our grief (Sarah Hoggan, 2023), we can feel lonely and isolated and our grief becomes a secret, our pain something we question or doubt.


Whilst we all will experience grief at some point in our lives, the fact we rarely talk about death and grief, means that often people withdraw from someone who is bereaved or is grieving for a loved one or pet.

This might be because they don’t know what to say. They might worry about making your pain worse or upsetting you, not realising that their withdrawal and silence is in itself painful.

The other thing that might happen is that people say things that are insensitive. It might be that they want to comfort you and panic and so come out with some phrases or words, not intending to hurt or upset you. It might be that they themselves haven’t experienced grief and so lack an understanding of the emotional turmoil you find yourself in. It might be that they feel very uncomfortable around someone who is grieving and rather than acknowledging this about themselves, they instead try to dismiss your pain. Most people however mean well but their words might hurt nevertheless.


Here are some of the things people might say which you might find hurtful or upsetting:


When a person dies:

“At least they are in a better place now”

“You can have always have another baby”

“You’re sure to meet someone else”

“It was for the best”

“At least they have lived a long life”

“You must be strong”

“Why haven’t you moved on yet?”

 

When a pet dies:

“It was only a cat/dog/pet”

“Will you get another one?” (often this might be the first question people ask after you tell them your pet has died)

“It’s not as bad as when a person dies”

 

When you’re grieving, having to navigate these kinds of comments and other people’s reaction is an added pressure that you do not need or might feel unable to cope with and that’s okay. Please know that the pain and grief you are feeling is real and valid.

You are not alone. There are helplines and support (I have included a list at the bottom of this post) and Bereavement Therapy can help you to process and explore your feelings, allowing you to come to terms with your loss and grief at your own pace and in a safe, non-judgmental space.

 

Everyone grieves differently and at their own pace and there is no time limit, so please don’t feel pressured to be “done” grieving after a particular amount of time has passed. Grieving doesn’t work that way. Grief is a difficult and often tumultuous journey, so please take care of yourself.


If you know someone who is grieving or has lost someone, here are some things that you can do if you are thinking of offering your help and support (this is a list compiled by Sue Mayfield in “First Steps through Bereavement”):

 

Offer practical and specific help, for example food shopping/cleaning

Send them a card or letter with stories of their loved one (if you knew them)

Make or cook them food

Spend time with them and keep them company

Help them to mark anniversaries

Keep in touch

Do ask what they need or want

Encourage them to talk and listen

Allow them to express their feelings

Allow them to grieve in their own way at their own pace

 

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is to always be respectful. Losing anyone is never easy and it is immensely painful and difficult.

 

No matter how much we might want to shy away or avoid death and grief, the truth is that both are part of life and of being human. All we can do is to live fully with that knowledge and take care of each other.



ceramic candle holder and tealight

Helplines and Support


Cruse Bereavement Support- offers advice, support and a helpline

Helpline- 0808 808 1677

 

Child Bereavement UK- offers advice and support for when a child grieves or when a child dies

Helpline- 0800 02 888 40

 

Compassionate Friends- provides support after the death of a child

Helpline- 0345 123 2304

 

Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide- peer led support for anyone bereaved by suicide, including an online forum and local support groups

National Support Line- 0300 111 5065

 

Sue Ryder- offers support and advice and online Bereavement Support

 

Blue Cross- offers support with Pet Bereavement

Helpline- 0800 096 6606 available between 8.30am and 8.30pm


References


Hoggan, Sarah (2023). Adopting a new pet after losing one, Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com, accessed on 29.04.2024

 

Mayfield, Sue (2011). For the Family, First Steps through Bereavement, Pages 83-87

 

 

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