Anniversaries, birthdays and special days when you or someone you know is living with grief
Saint Michael’s is here to support the Harrogate district community to live with terminal illness and bereavement.
This March, our Just ‘B’ bereavement support service shares some useful tips on how local people can look after themselves if they are experiencing grief, and how people can look after others who have been bereaved.
Tony Collins, the charity’s chief executive, said: “Anniversaries and key dates in the calendar can be a difficult or isolating time for many people, particularly those experiencing bereavement – whether their significant person died recently or many years ago.
For those who are bereaved, Tony says, “Embracing the memories of the person who is missing can be comforting and painful; talk about them and give yourself permission to cry as and when you need to.
“Try to let others know how you are feeling and how you would like to be comforted – whether that means giving you space to be alone, or being there to listen and give you a hug.”
“Above all, remember it’s ok not to feel ok.”
If you’re experiencing grief, Just ‘B’ says:
- Make time for yourself. Doing something for yourself that you enjoy, no matter how small, can be a great psychological break.
- Do what feels right for you. Surround yourself with things that comfort you whether you want to be alone, or surrounded by people, don’t feel under pressure to fit in with others’ expectations.
- If you find yourself on your own at a key date, for example an anniversary or holiday, there are many things you can do to make it special. Plan to spend time doing things that make you happy whether it is country walking, watching a favourite movie or travelling.
- If you will be alone during a key date, such as a significant anniversary, and feel you may experience loneliness, pick up the phone to friends or family, or an established support line. Many online forums also offer you the chance to connect with others in a similar position to you.
- Try not to spend too much time alone and don’t isolate yourself – as this can make things more difficult for you.
- Remember, tears are a normal part of the grief journey, and so is laughter – moments of happiness or humour don’t mean that you have forgotten the person that has died, but that you are learning to live with your grief.
- Some people find it helpful to create new traditions or new customs to pay tribute to loved ones. Don’t feel guilty about changing your routine, or about keeping routines that are important to you – whether you spend time somewhere new, or lay a place at the dinner table for the person who is missing, do what makes you feel comfortable.
- Talk to someone. It sounds obvious, but talking to a friend or family member can help ease the stress, isolation or loneliness you may be experiencing.
- Remember it’s ok not to feel ok – don’t try to get through it yourself. If you feel things may be getting too much, remember that many services are there to support you. There are also many helplines available 24 hours a day seven days a week. Don’t hesitate to call them if you need support.
If someone you know is bereaved:
- Remember that everyone copes in different ways when it comes to grieving – people might want space to be alone, or may appreciate the offer of company or comfort.
- It can be hard to find the right words when someone we know and love is affected by death, but it is important not to ignore the grieving person or pretend that their important person hasn’t died.
Phrases which may be helpful include:
“I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know I care.”
“I’m just popping to the shop, can I get you any essentials?” or “Shall I pick up the kids on Tuesday?” – specific offers of help can make it easier for someone having a difficult time to accept support.
“My favourite memory of … is” – talking about the person who has died is an important part of supporting someone who is bereaved. Be ready to listen to memories or feelings shared in return.
- Be there to offer a hug, make a cup of tea and simply listen.
- Let them know about Just ‘B’, which offers bereavement support to children, young people and adults, completely free of charge.
Phrases to avoid:
“Time is a healer” – while we often want to help people feel better and fix their pain, this can trivialise someone’s grief and make them feel that there is a timescale in which they need to ‘get over it’. Instead let them know you are there for them, for however long they need your support.
“I know how you feel” – everyone’s loss is unique, and everyone experiences grief differently. Instead ask them how they are feeling, and let them know you are prepared to listen, offer a helping hand or give them space.
“Be strong” – this can make people feel pressured to bottle up their emotions. Instead, let them know it’s ok to cry, and that you are there to listen and comfort them.
“Don’t cry, this should be a happy occasion” – it’s important to allow people to express their grief in their own way and not suppress normal and natural feelings of sadness.
You can find more information about Just ‘B’, including how to get in touch and the service’s core working hours, here: http://justb.org.uk/wordpress/contact-us/