Grief Awareness Blog

This week is National Grief Awareness Week. Christmas can be a difficult time for those who are grieving, and this year more than ever. People are often reluctant to talk about their grief, or people feel awkward mentioning lost loved ones. Lockdown has only added to those feelings of isolation and loneliness. That’s why we’re pleased to support the theme for this year’s National Grief Awareness Week, of #ShareYourStory.

We deal with death and bereavement every day and meet hundreds of grieving families every year. However, we have families of our own, and also experience grief and loss. We asked our team to share their own stories, in the hope that it will encourage others to start a conversation.

Joy, from our Nuneaton office, lost her father in 2017. “Everyone’s grief is different and how they react will be very different. I was told that I couldn’t conduct my dad’s funeral but I needed to. I needed and wanted to do that very last thing for my dad. I arranged and conducted funerals for strangers and feel very privileged to be able to do that very last thing for the deceased but also look after the family at their most vulnerable.”

She encourages you to talk about your loved ones often and be kind to yourself. “remember if you didn’t love someone you wouldn’t feel like you do.”

Janice, from our Kenilworth branch spoke to us about the loss of her husband Richard in 2016, after a two year battle with cancer.

“Losing my husband left a massive whole in my life and being, both mentally and physically I was drained of strength and the will to keep going, it tore me apart.  I had been strong for so long supporting him through treatment and just being there for him, whilst holding down a full time job.  There were many days after my loss when I just went with the flow, arranging the funeral, doing all the necessary things to notify everyone that he had passed away, and with him taken a part of me.  I felt as if I was on a roundabout, I could see things going on around me but was unable to respond.   My two children were absolutely amazing through all of this.”

Grief however, is not something to get over and move on from quickly “The sense of loss is always there it never goes away and grief comes in waves.  There doesn’t seem to be a trigger for this but then grief has a way of grabbing hold of you and leaving a mark.  Every time I attend a funeral, I feel the grief of my other losses crash around my feet.   I will never stop missing the people I have lost. I find strength in their memory to keep me moving forward.

She also emphasises the importance of talking

“I talk often about those I have lost, and this seems to help me and I realise that I can’t take away our clients loss but I can listen to them speak of their loved ones and form a picture of them in my mind, and this helps me to know how we can support with arranging their final journey of their loved ones.”

Clare, from our Coventry branch, has suffered a huge amount of loss over the last 4 years, with the death of her Mum, brother, Father-in-law and Father.

She found organising the funerals were a helpful focus for her.  “It kept me busy and that’s the best thing to do.  Only girl in a family of 6 and I just cracked on with things and sorted everything out.  I surprised myself by the things that I can do.

She hasn’t always found it easy though.  She says, “You have good days and bad days – it could be song and only the slightest thing can give you a bad day.” but she relies on her siblings and friends for support.

“We keep in touch with daily chats and messages.  It’s difficult on your own – just having someone around you helps.”

She recommends getting out of the house “Go for coffee, sit and chat, go for walks and get some fresh air.  Plan things and look ahead”

Jo, from Leamington says that even though she deals with funerals all the time, she couldn’t talk about it. “I didn’t speak to anyone about my feelings as I felt it was a selfish act – I felt I needed to be the strong one, I needed to know the next steps and advice with funeral details. But once I realised that I spoke with my manager at the time, and it helped me realise that it is ok to talk, it is ok to express your own feelings, whether this is crying or even screaming”

When asked what advice she’d give to the newly bereaved she says, “Remember it is ok to feel however you are feeling at that time, tell people if you want to be alone, again this is ok, just try not to have too much alone time – family and friends are an important part of your grief process, as much as it pains you sometimes, let people in to be there for you. Talk to your family and friends, they may just have been through the exact same thing and may have the reassuring words that you need to hear.”

She tells friends and family to let people grieve in their own say “be supportive and present, but also respect time to be alone”

There is no right way to grieve, and everyone deserves kindness and compassion.  We hope that by sharing our stories, we can encourage more conversations around this subject that touches us all.