Nicky Whichelow of GreenAcres Woodland Burials shares some tips to help with grief and loss.
“We meet families and friends every day who are coming to terms with loss. This could be up close and personal, it is their next of kin that has died. Or it could be one or two steps removed – perhaps a family friend or a relative that was more distant than immediate family.”
The common thread however seems to be a real desire amongst family and friends to feel “useful” either while planning the funeral or for the days and weeks afterwards. And this “being useful” comes in many forms. It could be some kind of emotional support or something more practical, depending on who is doing the “giving” and who is on the receiving end so to speak.
With that in mind, we thought we would give you an insight into what families that we have spoken to, valued most highly during their bereavement. And to make it a bit easier to understand, we have turned this into a list of tips.
7 tips to help with grief
- Make a special effort to keep in contact after the event. It may be tempting to keep away, especially as you probably do not know what to say, but visits and telephone calls are helpful. Loss can make someone feel very alone.
- Be a good listener. Try not to steer the conversation yourself but let the person talk about what they want. Allow, even encourage, him or her to talk about the loss that has happened or the person who has died and listen attentively. This may be difficult for both of you but it will help the other person to come to terms with the loss. Do not mind if they cry, or even if you cry yourself – it’s perfectly natural and normal.
- Avoid making assumptions about how the other person feels. All losses are different. Do not assume that the other person will feel the same as you did when you experienced a similar loss, and do not say “I know how you feel”. Encourage them to express his or her feelings, whatever they are, and try to accept that they are valid. For example a bereaved person might feel worried, angry, guilty or even relieved. Try to understand their feelings and do not say that they are wrong.
- Remember the importance of touch. Bereaved people and those experiencing separation often feel isolated and miss the warmth of human contact. It may help to put your arm around them, touch their shoulder or elbow, or hold hands or shake hands. Clearly you need to use your discretion but touch can be a very effective way of affirming your support.
- Offer practical help. If you can see that the other person needs help, then offer to help, or suggest where help can be obtained – do not wait to be asked. Some tasks previously carried out with ease may suddenly become an insurmountable problem. Domestic chores or cooking may slip or staying on top of paying bills or organising repairs may become a challenge but remember number 3 – do not make any assumptions! It is better to suggest a specific job or jobs. However, be prepared to accept that your offer of help may be declined – you can always offer to help in some other way or at another time. Be careful not to take over – the other person should remain in control and jobs done regularly could become an obligation.
- Refer to the professionals – if necessary. If you notice a serious problem which seems to be persisting longer than it should, e.g. over use of alcohol or drugs, serious self-neglect, malnutrition, total inertia or violent mood swings, you could express your worries and offer to help with further signposting. You may need to ask their permission first, especially if you decide that you need to contact their doctor. They will listen, and may be able to help, but remember that they have a duty of confidentiality so you can only help so far.
- Allow plenty of time. Grieving is a process which changes over the weeks, months and years, but your support will still be valuable. Anniversaries such as birthdays, wedding anniversaries, Christmas and the anniversary of a death are particularly difficult for the bereaved person—it will help if you can stay aware of them.
With thanks to the families who were so open with us as we support them through their bereavement. We hope you find these tips to help with grief useful.