Posts tagged “How to help bereaved loved ones”

As we are all witnessing, COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate. Many of us are starting to be touched directly or indirectly by this awful virus. We have seen with our own Prime Minister that this virus can strike anyone. Today’s post is about starting the process of getting your relationships in as good a place as possible, so that whatever happens, you feel at peace with your loved ones. 
 
We’ve come up with a 5-point plan that you can apply to any of your relationships: 
 
 
We will go through each point in detail, so you can apply the points to your relationships. 
Living Through Lockdown a 5 Point Plan
Today’s blog is to recognise that while we’re all grieving the loss of our normal life right now, others are grieving the loss of their relatives, the loss of pets, the breakdown of a relationship, the loss of health, or their career. All the above experiences are real grief. However, everyone is grieving differently to you. 
 
When you compare one grief to another, it automatically robs dignity from the person who’s made to feel as if their loss isn’t as big, for whatever reason. It also takes away from the fact that all grief is experienced at 100%. 
Comparing losses and grief
To quote the Faithless song, Insomnia, we are hearing about a lot of people who ‘can’t get no sleep’. When we don’t get enough sleep, it can impact our immune system and our mood. A lack of sleep can make us feel worse. 
 
A disrupted sleep pattern is a very common response to grief (if this is the first of our Coronavirus blogs that you’re reading, we’ve identified that we’re all grieving our loss of normal). Whether it’s not enough sleep, or sleeping too much, or both, alternately, this is a perfectly normal and natural response to loss and anxiety. 
Can't sleep during quarantine
 
You might be forgiven for thinking that our name, Grief Recovery is aimed at people dealing with bereavement. However, it seemed fitting at this time to reach out to everyone who is in lockdown, quarantine, isolated on their own, or is having to go out to work. 
 
In this unprecedented time, we’re all experiencing the loss of our lives, routines, work, family, friends, freedom. 
There is also a huge fear factor; fear of the unknown, fear of catching the virus, fear of others, and fear of the loss of control. Coming to terms with this is not something we’re used to. 
Grief and Coronavirus
We’ve seen plenty of posts on Facebook this week with stories of people feeling lonely, worried, sad, and even grieving. When you scroll through the comments to those posts, a common response has been ‘Be Strong.’ ‘Be strong’ is often a standard response given to grievers. In this moment in time, we have already identified that we’re all grievers, grieving our normal lives, or perhaps already grieving the loss of a loved one. 
 
The trouble is, other people aren’t always equipped to help us deal with loss and they don’t really know what to say. 
When people tell you to be strong
To say that people are uncomfortable with emotions such as sadness, rage or fear – especially after a personal loss – is an understatement. 
 
Sit back for a moment and think about the times in your life when you were feeling sad and tried to talk about those feelings with others. On a few occasions your friend or family member may have simply listened without analysis, criticism or judgement. More often than not, however, you may have received one of the following responses:- 
If you’ve experienced a major bereavement, then I’m sure you’ll have discovered that your feelings are unlike  
anything else you have experienced. You may also have discovered that it feels unlike any other loss you may have experienced before because all relationships are unique and therefore your grief is just as unique as you & your relationship are. 
 
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people being told that they are 
Young Widow Quote "things are hard enough without others making you feel it's wrong to want to be alone and want you to make more effort"
 
When I was widowed at the age of 40 I found out just how unprepared most people are when it comes to loss. Why is it so difficult? It’s not as if it’s unexpected, after all illness, pain, death are part of the human condition so surely with all that experience around we should learn the right thing to say? Well no, clearly not and because we’re not taught what to say we don’t teach our children what to say and the cycle of complete inadequacy continues. 
 
When I posted on this topic on an internet forum for widows the thread was inundated with examples of crassness and I vowed to write a book on the topic – there clearly is a need for education out there! Well that’s still a work in progress but in the meantime here’s my top five what not to say and if it stops a few people inserting their feet in to their mouths then great. 
 
By the way this list is on no particular order – what’s most offensive to me may seem mild to someone else – just play safe and avoid all of them! 
A question we often get asked is “should I take my young child to a funeral?” At Grief Recovery, we believe that all feelings are normal and natural including sad or painful ones so it would be easy to say “yes of course”. The real question is whether your child is old enough to hang around relatively quietly while the adults do what they must do. If they can do that then yes, they should go. 
Crucially before that happens the child needs to know what to expect and what your expectations are of them so you’ll need to do some explaining before the event: 
Many of us struggle to know what to say when someone has been bereaved, but at least with the card you’ve time to think about it so it’s easier right? Wrong! If you’ve ever sat with a blank card in front of you then you’ll know that actually the sight of that little white space can be quite daunting. 
 
Here’s my mini guide for How to write a sympathy card or similar. This article has now been turned into a leaflet - you can get free copies here 
 
Do 
 
Write it out on rough paper first. Even if you think you know what to say putting it down on paper first will help you realise if it looks OK written down and if it will fit in the space available. If it doesn’t fit include a note with the card as well. 
 
Read it aloud from your rough draft – sometimes what seems good in your head doesn’t work when read by another. Hearing it aloud can help you work out why not. 
 
Write from the heart. If you tell the truth about how you feel this will come across. 
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