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Grief - Let's Talk About It

Why do we find it so difficult to speak to someone when they are bereaved? We are all going to be in that position at some point in our lives, but we appear to avoid that thought at all costs.

When my husband, Steve died in 2019 I could see the fear on people’s faces trying to find the “right words”, not knowing how to act.

I am not blaming people for feeling uncomfortable or their clumsy conversation attempts but open up the discussion so we can all feel more able to be there for a friend, family member, or colleague.

Nothing you can say is going to make this better or take away the pain but showing compassion can make people feel less alone and adrift. There were times when I saw people in the street, who would try to avoid me- I’m sure no malice intended but they just did not know what to say.

I had people who stopped messaging me, maybe they thought I needed space. I may have needed space, I didn’t know what I needed, but I do know when the phone stops buzzing you feel neglected and abandoned.

In the early days of numbness and disbelief, I don’t remember too much but I do remember a neighbour who just kindly said- “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what to say, I can’t imagine how hard it is for you” She then hugged me and shared a memory of Steve helping her. She wasn’t trying to make it better or wrap it up neatly in a parcel or say it will be ok- she was just being there and validating my feelings.

But so many people tried to somehow make it better- at least you have your family, at least he went quickly, at least he didn’t know. I just wanted to scream “but I just want him here” The grief hurts, it physically hurts and I didn’t know how to make the pain go away.

Allowing yourself to acknowledge that and feel the pain is key, rather than pushing it down.

Another important way to support, is talking about the person who has gone, people often felt talking about Steve would upset me so avoided mentioning his name. It can feel as though no one else remembers or he never really existed. Talking about your loved one can be comforting, of course, it can make you sad, but it can make you smile remembering happier times.

Rituals can help with this, maybe going for a favourite walk or sharing a meal and stories about them on their birthday. Including them at Christmas maybe turning their old jumper into a Christmas decoration or telling their favourite awful joke! Turn these little moments into regular rituals.

I am no longer at that point of raw grief but the last few years have been tough as the reality of my new life, one that I didn’t choose hit home and I started afresh. Support from family and friends, listening to me, and nurturing me back to life have been precious.

I think the most important way you can help anyone grieving is to be genuine, show compassion, be there, and just listen.

Grief isn't linear, it can be messy, unpredictable, and last a lifetime. If you know someone who is grieving, whether it's recent or 30 years ago reach out, talk to them, ask them how they are, talk about their loved one and really listen. You may never know the difference you make but you will make a difference, you will help someone feel less alone- connections can change a life.

If you need further support please contact Cruse or check out their list of organisations.

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