Starting a conversation about grieving and loss

Losing someone close to us is one of the most painful experiences many of us will have in our lives, and although it’s an almost universal experience, it’s rarely discussed. Even though grief and all the other emotions that come along with it is a natural response to a loss, it is still somewhat stigmatised. In the past year there have been over 1000 deaths per 100,000 residents of the UK, a grim statistic which leaves behind a swathe of bereaved.

Researchers at Cardiff and Bristol university have been examining how the grieving process has been changed by the sweeping restriction brought about because of the pandemic. Family and friends bereaved by coronavirus experienced “greatly increased negative experiences” and showed higher grief and support needs compared to people suffering the loss of loved ones from other illnesses, including cancer, the researchers found.

National Grief Awareness Week offers a platform to talk openly about grief, encouraging people to engage and share their experiences.  This is vitally important in a year which has seen restricted access to much needed comfort and support from family and friends. Funerals and other rituals have also not been able to proceed in the same way, leading to anguish as mourners are not able to physically comfort each other.

Research commissioned by palliative care and bereavement charity Sue Ryder found that almost 2/3 of those who were bereaved during lockdown felt isolated and alone when grieving.

The ritual and community aspects of grieving cannot be underestimated as a way to support the processing of loss. Although many people find conversations about death and grieving to be difficult, they’re crucial to the people experiencing bereavement.

While grief is not a mental health problem, it can increase vulnerability. Approximately 10% of bereaved people experience mental health conditions such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress, or prolonged grieving.

Talking to a professional therapist can help in coming to terms with the loss of a loved one. Many people feel guilt at things they did or did not say or do; feelings of anger and blame are also common, as is increased anxiety and stress. You may, for instance, suffer anxiety about how you will cope without the person you have lost, about your own health, about dying, about financial insecurity, or about the loss of your place in the world.

The National Council for Hypnotherapy says that sessions of hypnotherapy with a trained practitioner can give you positive suggestions to help cope with anxiety, insomnia, deep sadness and depression, and other symptoms of grieving; it can reduce feelings of guilt and blame, and help you to find ways of coping in the future.

Therapy for bereavement can help by allowing you time and space to discuss your loss and the feelings you have about it; providing support and comfort during a difficult time.

If you’re finding it difficult to cope with bereavement or loss, then it can be helpful to seek out a therapist from the NCH directory who can help you.