As it’s National Grief Awareness Week, we sought the advice of Julia Samuel MBE, leading pyschotherapist specialising in the subject:
“The week is specifically aimed to encourage society to make it easier to talk about grief, breaking the taboo that comes with seeking support.
“Ongoing national research shows many bereaved people are suffering alone because they are uncomfortable about asking for help, despite their dire need.
“Without acknowledgement and early access to support, bereaved people can later suffer from physical and mental health complications. This goes beyond being just “sad”. 15% of all psychological disorders arise from unresolved grief.”
Illustrating the scale of grief
“Grief is a natural adaptive process, and what predicts the outcome of those who are grieving is the love and support of others,” Julia advises. “Having a close and daily connection of people around us is tremendously helpful in learning to live without the love of the person who has died.
“Research also shows that eight to nine people are significantly affected by every death, illustrating the scale of grief and the number of people who would benefit from a change of approach to it.
“If a friend or loved one has suffered a death of someone close to them, it can be very hard to know what to say and what to do. Often, we resolve to doing nothing in fear of hurting them further or offending them. In light of this week, I’d like to offer some tools that can be drawn upon in circumstances like this.”
Sharing memories is helpful
“The most important thing is to acknowledge it,” Julia says. “We can shy away from naming it and saying the name of the person who has died, in fear we may remind them – but the person who has died will never be far away from their thoughts. Naming it helps to take the poison out of it and brings bits of lightness back.
“Sharing stories and talking collectively as a group helps the affected person to get to a place where they can live and love again. Giving old photos and sharing memories is helpful.
“Discuss with them how they feel you could help them most. They may suggest you help them around the house – cleaning and cooking, taking the children out for a day. It may be driving them to a favoured spot or going on a weekly walk with them. It could even be as simple as making them a cup of tea.
“Love and support can also come from the person who is grieving and it’s important for them to turn to themselves for self-compassion. Grief is embodied and feels like fear. It helps enormously, even in these cold darker months, to get outside and move our body around – even if it is only for ten minutes. Choose to do something you like doing, whatever it is, which lowers the barrier of not doing it!
Learn to heal
“Grief is painful and you need to allow yourself to feel the pain of it and not block it out. When we do that, we allow ourselves to learn to heal and grow through our grief. Given this is tough, ensure you also intentionally choose to do things that comfort and soothe you.
“This is a personal thing, but some ideas which might be helpful include lighting a candle, making a warm drink, scented baths, meditation, listening to some music, getting a hug or speaking to a friend.
“If you feel you cannot cope, please seek support from a trained therapist.”
Christmas time can be a particularly difficult time for many. Find tips to help you cope here.