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Get talking about grief

November 28, 2022

Grief is not an easy thing to talk about – whether you’re the person who’s suffered a bereavement, or you know someone who has. Many people find it difficult to bring up the subject, often because they’re worried about saying the wrong thing, or they don’t want to make someone uncomfortable.

The campaign behind this year’s National Grief Awareness Week (2-8 December 2022) is all about normalising grief, and getting the public talking about it. Grief is something we all experience in our lives, and keeping our feelings inside can make us more distressed, overwhelmed and isolated. Not receiving the right support when we need it can also lead to mental health problems such as anxiety or depression.

One of the main aims of the campaign is to break down the ‘taboo’ surrounding bringing grief out into the open.

Sadly, death is an inevitable part of life, and grieving is a normal response to the loss of someone important, and a natural process. As we go through life we all lose people we care about, and coming to terms with it is never easy. As a modern society, we’re perhaps less equipped to cope with – or talk about – death than in the past, thanks to advances in medicine and safety.

People can go through a wide range of feelings and emotions in the aftermath of a loss. The experience is unique to everyone, and there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but when you’re grieving it’s common to:

  • Feel numb, or unable to express your feelings – some people find they can’t cry.
  • Think that you’re in some way responsible, which can lead to guilt.
  • Feel angry with yourself, your loved ones, or even the person who’s passed away.
  • Find it difficult to talk to people close to you, or believe nobody understands what you’re going through.
  • Become panicky or agitated.
  • Be unable to concentrate on day-to-day tasks, or to sleep or eat normally.
  • Feel you can’t cope with the prospect of life without the person you’ve lost.

Although feelings like these are unpleasant and can be distressing, it’s important to understand that they’re a normal part of the grieving process.

So why is talking about grief so important?

Talking about how we feel to the right person – and being listened to – can help us to feel supported and loved, as well as to understand the different thoughts and emotions that will be in our minds. Describing our pain and expressing our sadness can also lessen its impact.

We might have negative beliefs and expectations about opening up; perhaps that people will think we should be able to cope on our own, or that they won’t understand. It’s worth challenging these: How likely is it that they’ll be judging you? Have they lost someone themselves in the past, and so will recognise how you’re feeling?

The organisers of National Grief Awareness Week – The Good Grief Trust – are encouraging us all to check in on each other and make time for a chat, and not be embarrassed about starting a conversation with someone who’s suffered a loss: they’ll be thinking about it anyway.

Don’t keep your distance because you’re worried about making things worse, or you’re not sure what to say. You don’t need to come up with the perfect words, or provide solutions. Just be ready to listen open-heartedly. Asking them what they need from you is a good way to start.

The Good Grief Trust website has plenty of resources and details of support services for those who have suffered a bereavement.

Bereavement can have a big impact on a person’s mental health. People who already have a mental health condition can find that it worsens, while others may develop difficulties for the first time. While sadness is a natural response to losing a loved one, if you have a low mood or feelings of anxiety that don’t pass, you should consider seeking professional support.

There’s no specific cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) treatment for grief, as it’s a natural process, but if you need support with a bereavement, please contact the bereavement counselling service in your area or your GP. However, if you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, coming to therapy will help you to manage them. You can find out more about online CBT through ieso here.

ieso Online Therapy
This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.
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