2nd - 8th December is grief awareness week, an initiative put together by the Good Grief Trust to raise awareness of the impact grief can have on our lives.
I have suffered my fair amount of grief, in the last 12 years, not only have I lost both my parents, my Grandma (who I was incredibly close to) but two of my best friends as well.
Although death and grief is a major part of living, and something none of us can escape, what always amazes me is how we don't know how to deal with someone who is grieving, it feels really awkward to talk about it.
I found that people either avoided me, because they were embarrassed or didn't know what to say or they asked me inappropriate questions. Others knew exactly what to do.
The fact is, that grief is uncomfortable, you don't want to say something to upset the person who is grieving and sometimes it might feel that if you have an open conversation about death that somehow it might rub off on you, or it might trigger your own emotions and avoiding it is a way of preserving your own feelings. Doing that is in no way wrong.
Here's some things I've learned over the years.
Even if you don't know what to say, say something, even if it's "I'm not sure what to say", or you can keep it simple by saying your sorry for that person's loss or offer your condolences.
Do not ignore the person or the situation!
2. Check in.
The bereaved sometimes feel like they have to hide their grief because they don't want to burden people. Take the time to check on a friend who has lost someone even if it's been a while and they "seem OK"
3. Keep Talking.
Sharing memories about people who have died will help keep those memories alive and pass them down to future generations.
Talking helps you feel close to people that you've lost and that can feel comforting.
4. Grief Doesn't Have a Time Limit.
You'll hear about the 5 stages of grief, you can read about those in my previous blog, but there's no time limit or rhyme or reason to grieving.
You don't just "get over it" or "move on", you learn to live with grief and move forward, but feelings of guilt can be triggered at any time, let yourself feel what you need to feel.
If you have a friend who is grieving, then be there when they have a bad day, if they need to talk listen, or if they need time alone acknowledge that too, just let them know that you are there for them.
5. Grief Doesn't Discriminate.
Grief can affect anyone at anytime, it doesn't care about your race, religion, sexuality, age, we all suffer from it.
Treat everyone who is grieving with respect.
6. Be Kind
If you're the one grieving, then be kind to yourself, don't force yourself into doing anything you're not ready for.
If your friend is grieving then be kind to them, if they cancel plans last minute because they can't face it, then don't give them a hard time and keep inviting them out.
7. Ask for Help.
Grief can be exhausting, so if someone offers to do something practical for you say yes!
You don't have to do everything yourself.
If you're feeling overwhelmed by feelings of grief, then please don't suffer alone, there are many places that can offer you help and advice, your local GP, The Good Grief Trust, Cruse Bereavement Care, or Child Bereavement UK.