When someone close to you dies, even if their death was expected, it can feel difficult to cope in the first weeks and months. Here, our Bereavement Team share a few thoughts around living with grief and ways to support bereaved people.
Living with grief
It can feel unbearable when someone close dies, as though our whole world has changed. Our responses to loss are all unique and there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
It’s OK to have time off from your grief, so give yourself a welcome distraction if you feel able. Being around nature has a proven benefit to our mental health. Try to get outdoors as often as possible, even if you don’t feel like it. If you can, find a healthy outlet to express your feelings, for example you might try exercise, talking, keeping a journal or painting. When people offer help, let them know what they can do for you, be it practical tasks or emotional support.
“I couldn’t go down the street without people saying ‘How do you get up in the morning? How awful for you.’ They mean well but those kind of comments condition you to feel negativity. I’ve let the love that I have for Sadie breathe. I see something beautiful and I see her. It’s about conditioning your mind to keep your loved one alive; in nature and in music.”Julia France, about her daughter Sadie, who died in 2015
Supporting those who have been bereaved
It can be difficult to know what to say or do – but it’s better to acknowledge loss rather than ignore it, even just in a quick call or text. Try to be comforting, rather than business-like.
The bereaved person may be longing to speak about the person who has died, so encourage them, even if it seems to make them upset. Over time, create an environment where the person has the freedom to talk or not, according to what they want and when. For example, suggesting times when you are free if they fancy a chat.
Other ways to remember
Saying goodbye matters, but recently it’s been impossible for most of us to be present when a loved one dies, or attend their funeral. If you weren’t able to be present at the time of death, think about sharing memories of that person, whether it’s on a phone call, creating a memory book, a personal journal or a social media site.
Once we are able to gather again, set a date for a memorial. This is an opportunity to acknowledge those feelings of loss and sadness together, and talk through happier memories too. And don’t forget to take time to remember alone. A simple act like lighting a candle or looking over old photos holds the person who has died in our thoughts.
For more support, contact St Christopher’s Bereavement Team on 020 8768 4599 or visit www.stchristophers.org.uk/our-care/bereavement/