National Grief Awareness Week this year focuses on how social distancing and self-isolation has profoundly affected people’s ability to grieve.

The bereaved have not been able to reach out to family and friends for a much-needed hug and human connection has been incredibly difficult. This has caused a great deal of trauma and distress.

However, distance should not prevent us from reaching out to others and sharing our grief wherever and whenever we can.

Our counselling teams are experts in providing support and understanding at the most difficult of times. During 2020 much of their support has moved online and to the telephone, but they have still been here to listen and to help people express their grief.

Here Judy and Scott offer their advice and suggestions. We hope you find them useful.

The Importance of Sharing

Judy: “Experiences and emotions often have common threads which are shared by many people who seek counselling following the death of a loved one.

“People wish to speak of the person who has died, they want to say their name and also to hear it spoken by others, and to remember them openly with both sadness and joy, and without barriers.

“They would like the opportunity when asked the question, “How are you?” to feel able to be honest on the really hard days. They would like not to have the bear the weight of wearing a disguise of ‘alright-ness’ to avoid upsetting others with their grief.

“They would so much rather people say to them, “I really don’t know what to say!” than avoid them and keep away.

“And they would like to feel able to laugh and smile openly without fearing others might judge them.

“These common themes that we hear so often in counselling sessions demonstrate the importance of bereaved people feeling able to share their individual stories and feel truly heard by those around them.”

Grief In Isolation

Scott:I have carried out a review of the research and literature into the lived experiences of bereaved fathers, and discovered that they can often be overlooked by professionals and society at large. There is also a lack of materials focusing on their experiences.

“There are six common themes that fathers appear to experience after the loss of their child.

“They need to keep their child’s memory present in their life going forward, they search for meaning in their grief, and they identify that distraction and working can be useful coping strategies.

“Rituals and creating remembrance are important, there is a dramatic change of life perspective and bereaved dads mostly process their grief in isolation.

“Society places huge demands and judgements on fathers in terms of what is an acceptable way for men to grieve. We need to recognise and respect that fathers grieve too, and it is important not to forget them.”

Hope House Children’s Hospices offer counselling and bereavement support to children and families living in Shropshire, Cheshire, Mid and North Wales who have been affected by the death of a baby, child or young person up to the age of 25 years when they died. Our service is free and confidential. For more information please email [email protected]

Other helpful advice can be found at www.thegoodgrieftrust.org, www.nationalgriefawarenessweek.org and www.letstalkaboutloss.org