A massive subject and one I don’t intend to try and tackle here. Rather, it is an opportunity to acknowledge the subject during National Grief Awareness Week 2-8 December 2020 In 2020 the awareness campaign wants people to #ShareYourStory and the aim is to help people get over the discomfort of talking about, what is, such an uncomfortable subject for so many.
National Grief Awareness Week
National Grief Awareness Week is an opportunity to put lots of information about the breadth of support available throughout the UK for anyone who is living with the impact of bereavement in their lives.
Kubler-Ross developed a model of the grieving process that is used by many professionals to help people understand some of the feelings and emotions they are going through after the death of a loved one. It’s important to note that not all grievers experience the same emotions and the order of the stages can vary.
Unique to Everyone
That’s why I can be working with someone who may have lost a loved one several years ago around something completely different but find grief is involved somewhere. Or, the overwhelming emotion related to a loss is so prevalent it is almost impossible to create space for anything else in life. It often sits there like the elephant in the room especially when people are not given the chance to talk when they need to.
This is probably the most important fact about grief. We can’t predict how, when or where it will manifest. I was having treatment for an infection in my earlobe and the practitioner casually asked me to tell her about my family, as a distraction I think. I just burst into tears as I told her I had lost my Father almost ten years before. I was devastated and embarrassed. My sobs were clearly disproportionate given the time frame, or were they? I had been very close to him and very, very sad but I was expecting my son at the time of his death, I’d just moved out of the country and as the eldest child in the family I felt responsible for making all the arrangements to save my devastated Mum having to do it. I suddenly realised, although I thought of him every day I had never actually cried until that moment.
I know I’d been through the other stages including denial, anger and bargaining but these tears allowed me to finally accept my loss and remember him with more than sadness for the amazing part he had played in my life.
Other things I’ve learned from my own experience or through holding the hand of others living with grief are:
- Be kind and patient with yourself maintaining the basic self care routines of eating, sleeping and getting out of the house to exercise are important on the physical side but don’t forget to give yourself a break on the emotional side too. Grief comes in waves – grief isn’t an illness like the flu. The flu has a process of making you feel worse before you feel better, then it’s gone. Grief can come and go. It very rarely makes an appointment!
- Overcoming grief is hard work – there are times when the physical exhaustion outweighs the psychological and vice versa. Both are real and take me back to that wave that comes over you unexpectedly. Over time the intensity often lessens and the gaps in-between lengthen.
- Grief can be around much longer than some expect – Remember it is different for everyone. My experience isn’t exactly the same as anyone else’s, even those in my family. And, I had a completely different experience when my Mum passed away and a different experience again when I lost my son. This year, the year of this awful pandemic, has made various anniversaries so much more difficult than previous years. A couple of years ago I was with a family friend who had been very close to my parents on what would have been their wedding anniversary. His grief made mine all the more poignant. The experience just keeps changing.
Grief can’t be avoided – it might be tempting to try and travel around it but at some point you probably have to deal with it. When you do, don’t do it alone. That’s why National Grief Awareness Week is so important. There is support and help available for whatever you need right now. Please use it, that’s what it’s there for.