Dawn Bereavement Support is part of the Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Grief Voices

Real voices of grief encouragement

Grief voices is an initiative designed to bring Dawn to you. You’ll find recorded interviews with people who have known grief and have been willing to share some of their stories. During these interviews you hear not just about their loss, but encouragingly what people found the most helpful.

We understand that everyone’s grief is unique, but we hope you may find some of the advice helpful.

Christmas/Anniversaries/Birthdays

Christmas, anniversaries are birthdays are hard times of the year when you are grieving. Many people around us might be laughing and swapping gifts and you might feel very disconnected from it all. Maybe you feel you can’t laugh – it’s too painful. You might feel guilty about feeling sad or maybe you feel guilty when you laugh and enjoy something. This is normal. My advice is to feel what you feel and accept it. Try to lift off any guilt and tell yourself that the person you have lost wouldn’t want you never to smile again. Allow yourself time to remember your loved one but also allow yourself time to engage with others.

Sleep Problems

Grief impacts us physically, mentally and emotionally and has the potential to knock our sleeping and eating routines completely off course. Remember that you are grieving and try not to expect too much from yourself. Be kind to yourself and be realistic. Keep bedtime routines the same as far as possible and try to avoid using alcohol as a way of getting to sleep. Whilst alcohol can make us drowsy, it inhibits deep sleep so that you are more likely to wake up and still feel tired the next day, but it is also a depressant and therefore can lower mood. When missing a deceased partner some people find comfort from talking to them before bedtime and others might take an item of their clothing or a photograph of them to bed with them to hold or have close by. Small things like these can make a big difference.

Loneliness

It can be very tempting to withdraw from social events or family gatherings and refuse to see our family and friends because we feel so sad. I’d encourage you to get the balance right between seeing people and having time alone (if you want time alone). Try to understand why you are withdrawing, is it for your benefit (your need the peace and quiet) or for theirs (you fear “spoiling their day”). I’d recommend you try to talk to your loved ones so that they can understand yout motivation and you can then decide together when to see each other and in what size groups. For example, you might not feel able to meet a large group of people but one or two at a time might feel a whole lot more manageable. Families with young children who are too young to understand death might be a comfort to be around or they might feel overwhelming – consider what feels right for you and perhaps limit time with them if you feel it will be particularly difficult. Try not to withdraw completely. Find the places and people that you can go to where you are accepted just as you are. Losing someone you love is a deeply painful experience and the toll it takes to grieve is huge, but I’d also remind you of those you still have around you that love you, allow yourself to appreciate and relax in the warmth of their love and grieve together.

Bereaved Children

When trying to support bereaved children it is important to try and talk to them in an age-appropriate way. Help them to understand without confusing them. If you are afraid of becoming tearful when talking to a child then get someone to do so with you and then, if you can’t continue, the other person can take over. It is okay to cry with children – this is healthy grieving and gives permission for the child to cry too if they wish. Afterwards try to explain why you cried so that the child understands and can accept this as a normal part of grief. Children will grieve but it might not be with tears so be prepared for difficult behaviour as they come to terms with what they are feeling. Try to talk to them about their behaviour after they have calmed down and be prepared to ask if they were missing the person who has died so that they have space to verbalise their feelings. All of these suggestions need to be address in an age-appropriate way but remember that you are modelling grief to them and if they know you are okay (i.e. managing your grief) then they will be okay to.

Dealing with how others treat you

It’s okay to talk about the person who has died but often people don’t mention the deceased for fear of upsetting you. What they don’t know is that it can be just as hurtful for the grieving person for the deceased never be mentioned at all. Often the one who was closest to the deceased is the person who brings the deceased name into the conversation and this can bring comfort but also give permission for others to talk about them too. For example, reminiscing on Christmas’s gone by is allowed and it can sometimes give a comforting sense of the deceased being part of this Christmas too. If in doubt about whether a bereaved person wants to talk about their loved one, then always ask – don’t assume they’d rather not.

Impact of Covid on grief

We know that grief impacts on grief so if you have experienced a death of a loved one and then suffer another bereavement it is possible that the first loss will surface again. You may find yourself thinking about the first person who died and this then adds to how you feel about the second. In circumstances like these it is important to try and separate the two experiences if you can. Try and look back on the first bereavement and identify things or people that gave you support and comfort and use these memories constructively to support you with the second loss. Take hope from the fact that you have grieved before and are managing to work through it and therefore you will be able to do it again. The Covid pandemic has not only taken loved ones from us but it has also taken some of our freedoms and those support structures that we relied on to manage past experiences. In doing so our confidence that we can cope might have reduced and our anxiety that we can’t cope might rise. If this is happening to you then know firstly that this is very common, and you are not alone. Secondly reach out for help. This help can mean more frequent contact via phone or online platforms with friends or relatives or it could mean accessing your GP for a referral to a professional agency for therapeutic support. Whatever your circumstances, don’t suffer alone but allow others to help. Keep bedtime routines the same as far as possible and try to avoid using alcohol as a way of getting to sleep. Whilst alcohol can make us drowsy, it inhibits deep sleep so that you are more likely to wake up and still feel tired the next day, but it is also a depressant and therefore can lower mood. When missing a deceased partner some people find comfort from talking to them before bedtime and others might take an item of their clothing or a photograph of them to bed with them to hold or have close by. Small things like these can make a big difference.