12 September 2023

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Loss and Legacy in our community

Loss and legacy

We’re working to help members of the public and the local community to explore loss.

Do you find it hard to talk about grief or loss, or your feelings about death? Or have you perhaps had a time when you didn’t ask someone who was grieving how they were and regretted it later? None of that is unusual. But at St Christopher’s Centre For Awareness and Response to End of Life (CARE), we’re trying to shift that.

Many of us didn’t learn about bereavement, grief and loss at school or get the opportunity to contemplate a loss, either for ourselves or with others. This can make it harder for us to understand what is happening to ourselves or someone experiencing a loss, its impacts and what might be expected during this time. Is grief finite? Am I going to feel this way forever?

Photo by Rachel Manns

And have you ever made an excuse about how you felt rather than tell someone the truth – I’m sad – because you didn’t want to make them sad too or risk being judged? Have you been unsettled by how lonely grief feels, especially if you feel like people are avoiding talking to you?

Equally, this can be a problem when we are considering how to support someone who is grieving. It can feel so difficult that sometimes it’s easier just to say nothing rather than risk ‘getting it wrong’.
Palliative Care doctor, Dr Kathryn Mannix asks us to stop “bracing ourselves to do something difficult” and normalise talking about death and dying. Only then, can we support each other through the full diversity of experiences of grief and loss.

That’s why at St Christopher’s CARE, we’re working to help members of the public and the local community to explore the concepts around loss and to understand more about them together. Our Community Learning programme offers ‘Loss and Legacy’ courses to members of the public which explore different aspects of bereavement, loss and grief, and how they might make us feel.

These Community Learning courses use peer learning principles: we all have knowledge, experience and wisdom to share. Between us all we can help each other understand more about death and loss, working with a facilitator who also has a personal experience of the area.

It’s reassuring to know others also struggle with so many aspects of loss and grief

Our aim is that in doing so, we create opportunities that are often missing from public settings:
the opportunity to reflect on and learn about something that is a key part of everyone’s life and human existence. And often this gives people the opportunity to come to terms with things and recognise that we have confidence and knowledge ourselves, which may also help us now and in the future.

Our Community Learning Facilitators work with volunteers to facilitate the courses. When people have the opportunity just to sit and listen to each other, and talk about loss, things change and it starts to feel far more normal for them. People often join with the idea they’ll listen to others and pick up new knowledge, but actually it stimulates them to start to share and help others too. And other attendees have shared that the method helps them accept the idea that loss is part of life.

One attendee said “It was helpful to discuss experiences and hear about the experiences of others. I have a better understanding of different experiences and ways of dealing with loss.” While another shared, “It’s reassuring to know others also struggle with so many aspects of loss and grief.’”

Last year, the UK’s Commission on Bereavement launched eight principles for change for how we as a society can more sensitively and confidently respond to grief and loss so that everybody has support if and when they want and need it. They state that bereavement is “everybody’s business”.

We agree. Working with our community and the knowledge they have to share with one another, we are helping people be more confident and comfortable when talking to each other about death, dying and loss. We are always seeking people from our communities who would like to share their experiences and help others learn. Do get in touch on to find out how to get involved.

:: This story was from our Autumn/Winter 2023 issue of Connect magazine. To read the full magazine, or to sign up to receive future editions, please click here.

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