2nd May 2022
Supporting through grief: interview with Debbie, our Bereavement Support Services Manager
We asked Debbie, our Bereavement Support Services Manager, a few questions about how to recognise grief in others and how we can help those who are grieving.
How does grief manifest itself? How can you tell if someone is grieving?
Grief can be a whole range of heightened emotions in no particular order, sadness, anger, guilt, shock, anxiety, relief, confusion, living in a fog and frustration. All of these feelings can lead to depression. Grief can also present itself in a physical form through lack of sleep, too much sleep, chest pains, raised blood pressure and generally making the person feel so unwell they think something is seriously wrong with their health.
People may become withdrawn, irritable, numb, detached, or preoccupied with loss. They may lose their ability to show or experience joy.
Why is it important that we talk about and acknowledge grief?
Talking about the loss helps the person to process and accept their grief. It gives them a sense that they aren’t isolated. They may need to share their continued sadness or to talk about the person who is now gone.
Why do you think people find it difficult to talk about?
As a community we find talking about death and dying very difficult. People do not know what to say or how to react. They feel they may upset the person who is grieving or say the wrong thing. Talking about death can remind us of our own mortality and bring death closer to us, which is another reason why we avoid the subject.
If someone we know is grieving, what is the best way to support them and encourage them to talk about it?
Be there for them. Listen to their story and help them feel less isolated. Gently open conversations about the person who has died by sharing memories. Look for different ways to talk, such as walking and talking, or joining a group. You can also offer to help with practical things such as shopping or cooking a meal for them. If someone is really struggling, you might encourage them to get some bereavement support. You can also help by researching resources they can use.
Should we avoid saying the name of the person who has died in case it upsets the grieving person?
Absolutely not. We should mention their name. They are to be remembered. It is important that they live on in our heart. Memories and legacies are such an important part of healing the grief.
Some people say they find it easier to talk to a stranger or a professional about grief than someone close to them. What are the reasons for this?
Talking to a stranger can be easier as they can talk openly about their feelings without the fear of being judged or upsetting the other person. They can feel safe in knowing the professional is experienced to support them through a very difficult time. Professionals will be able to give more practical and useful suggestions for healing their grief.
How long does it take people to process grief?
Grief is so unique to the individual there is no set pattern or time frame for processing it. Grief actually never goes away – we build our life around it. Our lives become bigger but the grief stays the same. We build resilience to manage the grief for times when it will enter back into our lives.