In this post we will explore grief and loss.
Our boss Dawn heard about the Good Grief Trust and they have some really great resources on their website. They inspired us to do this post, to help those experiencing grief and loss, or those who are helping to support people.
You can tailor the support needed on their homepage and select from different categories of support. They have a really comprehensive selection of helplines, website links and a tool to find your nearest support groups too, along with videos on different topics, such as how to help & for the newly bereaved.
Click here to visit their website.
If you would like to read about grief surrounding suicide, scroll down a bit further and we have information and advice from Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBBS), a fantastic organisation promoted by the Good Grief Trust.
Click here to visit their website.
If you have any inspiring stories you would like to share, or advice, please get in touch via our Facebook page.
Things I wish I’d known…
Advice from people who have been through it...It's good, sometimes it's repetitive and feels generic, but mostly people wont know what to say or how to say it. There will be some useful tips to pick up from people who have been through it though, and the Good Grief Trust had some excellent ones.
Things I wish I'd known:
- That the only recording I may have of my loved one is on a voicemail, on my phone or my answer machine which may automatically get deleted. Save them now if you are concerned, this can be devastating for some people.
- That I could get help for my children from a child psychologist. You can visit www.bacp.co.uk for information on finding a qualified counsellor or your child's school may have links to a specialist service.
- That Widowed and Young existed - www.widowedandyoung.org.uk a charity for those under 50 who have lost a partner.
- That someone had told me that I didn't have to rush the funeral and that I could have had a memorial service, several months later, instead of planning an event just after my loved one died. This is especially good to think about now, with the restrictions on funerals and gatherings.
- Saying yes to any practical help offered is ok and not a sign of weakness. Grief can be exhausting and many people really appreciate jobs being done around the house, that children are looked after for a while and that paperwork is dealt with. If you say no too much, people may drift away and think you are ok.
- That you can do what you want, when you are ready to do it. You don't need to explain or justify why.
- That after you lose someone you can have a few treats, like a massage or reflexology session. No-one told me I should be nice to myself, I could really have done with someone being nice to me who didn't ask me questions.
- That in those early days I wish I'd spent more time looking after me - magnesium salt baths, scented candles, reiki sessions and long walks listening to soothing music or audio books.
- That I wish I'd written more thoughts down so I could remember the journey I've been on and how our tragedy is leading to positive achievements.
- That it was okay to say I feel crap, when people asked how I was rather than oh you know I'm okay. When I did start telling people how I really felt, I got a lot of support, but by saying I was okay it gave them an excuse not to dig deeper so I felt swamped by my grief.
- That friends can often be the greatest source of strength and understanding - they are invaluable.
- That you will be given lots of advice from friends and family. Whatever their thoughts - go with your gut instinct.
- That it can be hard talking to those who have not experienced what you have. Seek out people who have been through a similar loss. People try to understand, but there's just this emptiness you feel.
- That it's okay to do whatever I need or want to do!
- That all the horrific emotions I was feeling were very normal and part of the grieving process.
- That there is no "normal" way to grieve and that we can experience grief in different ways.
- That I had known that I would go over everything that happened from diagnosis to death over and over and over in my head every time I am alone.
- That I could let friends and family know what help and support I needed, rather than what they think I need.
Physical effects of grief
Like everything else about grief, each person experiences it in their own way. Nobody warns you or talks about the physical symptoms.
The contributors/readers over on the Good Grief Trust website have reported a huge range of physical effects from grief:
- "Everything ached, my head and shoulders were constantly in pain from crying and stress. My skin and hair went to pot and hair still falls out now. It's the worst experience that will ever happen to me so I'm not surprised the side effects were so extreme"
- "Heart palpitations, fatigue, sleep problems, high blood pressure all after our son was killed suddenly in a workplace incident at 33"
- "Brain fog, eczema, insomnia, weight gain, depression and I feel empty".
- "Anxiety / panic attacks, exhaustion, weight loss, loss of appetite, widows brain, heightened PMS symptoms"
- "I developed chronic pain syndrome after crippling grief. This has been with me for the past 18 years"
- "And my tongue developed something called geographic tongue. It annihilates taste and it looks awful".
Loss and Grief around suicide
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide have a great website, where you can get helpful advice for yourself if you have been through this, feeling suicidal, need a local support group, email support or even if you would like to set up a new group! They can help people no matter how long ago the bereavement was, with support if you are under 18 and with recommending therapeutic poetry, film and books. Importantly, there are also survivors stories, showing there is hope and you can get through this. To visit their website, click here.
From the website "Slow progress to a new normal".
At first, and for some time after the death, you may not even be able to think about the way forward because all of your efforts will go into surviving and dealing with the emotional challenges and practical problems it has brought. Losing a loved one always takes a long time to come to terms with but bereavement by suicide is known to involve a particularly difficult and lengthy period of grieving.
People may expect that you will recover within months; the truth is that you may never recover completely but you will adapt to a changed life over time. Many people find that the second year may feel worse than the first (apart from the shock) and the third may be little better. Be prepared for this however don’t think that it means you will always feel the pain so keenly. You may not be able to imagine how the pain will lessen but over time the gaps in between the moments of thinking about your loss gradually get bigger and bigger. Things will never be the same as before but you will find a “new normal”.
Many bereaved people find anniversaries difficult – it could be a birthday, Christmas or the anniversary of the death. They are reminders that time has passed and that our loved ones are no longer here. Often the anticipation of the event is worse than the reality, perhaps driven by a fear of re-experiencing the shock and pain. Some people find it best to try and go about their normal routine or do something to keep busy, others find it helpful to organise a day out with a relative or friend, perhaps to go somewhere that you can remember the person who died.
Eventually you may find that life is feeling “more normal” and at some stage you may find yourself considering major life choices – perhaps meeting a new partner, having a baby or moving to a new home. Be prepared that these new opportunities can suddenly raise feelings and questions which you may not be expecting. Be aware of this, it is very natural and make sure that you continue to seek support when you need it.
You are always welcome to use our services, no matter how long ago your bereavement.
Ways we can support people experiencing bereavment.
In addition to talking with and listening to the bereaved person, there are other ways that you can show your support:
- Ask what you can do to help. It may help to make specific offers - focus on what obviously needs to be done such as babysitting, making a meal, shopping, cleaning, making phone calls etc. Routine tasks may be neglected by those who are grieving. As time progresses there may be other activities you can support them with particularly if they may be having trouble thinking clearly in e.g. arranging the funeral, reviewing finances etc.
- Attend the funeral and any other occasion such as a memorial service. Your presence will make a difference.
- Ask if they would like your support during the investigation and inquest process (if there is one).
- Keep any promises that you make - disappointment can destroy the best of intentions.
- Remember that the grieving and recovery process is long and complex - don’t stop with offers of support once the funeral is over. Even the odd phone call can go a long way to make people feel that they still matter.
- Support them in taking things at their own pace - there will be plenty of other people around them who may be urging them to “get back to normal”.
- Remember key dates such as anniversaries and holidays - get in contact and ask if they would like to do something or if they would like some company on these days.
- Be aware of some of the support services that are available to them. Never force them or sign them up for something without their permission but if the time is right and you think it is appropriate you can make them aware of the possibilities.
- Be aware of prolonged symptoms of grief or depression and encourage them to seek help from their GP if you are concerned.
- Be aware of your own energy, emotions and health - supporting someone else can be tiring or challenging - particularly if you are grieving yourself. Ensure that you find appropriate support for yourself - we can only help others if we look after ourselves.