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Grief Awareness

National Grief Awareness week is 2 – 8 December. It is an annual event organised by the Good Grief Trust, a UK charity run by the bereaved for the bereaved. Their aim is to encourage everyone to have an open, honest and straightforward dialogue about grief. The idea is to help ease the pain and make life a little bit more bearable for these experiencing the grieving process. As Marcus Tullius Cicero (Roman Statesman) said, “Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief”.

There are approximately 650,000 deaths in the UK each year. So, at some point we will all be faced with the death of someone close to us. And the recent pandemic has, for some of us, meant we have had to face this experience in less than ideal times. The awareness week has several key messages to hope those who are bereaved and those close to them.

Distance shouldn’t mean we can’t share our grief. The pandemic has meant that the bereaved have not been able to reach out to family and friends for a much needed human connection. But, by using technology, distance should not prevent us from being there for others and sharing our grief.

Just because I’m smiling doesn’t mean I am not grieving. The bereaved often feel they have to mask their grief from family, friends and colleagues, so as not to burden them. If you know someone has experienced a loss, look out for them, check they are OK. They may seem alright, they may seem back to normal, but deep inside they could be struggling and would appreciate a chat or your help and understanding.

Say their name, I’m thinking about them anyway. You may be afraid to mention the person’s name who has died. We worry that this may upset our friend or family member, but it is normally the opposite. By remembering them and talking about them you are helping to share your love and affection for that person. This is important and will let those grieving to know that you will help to keep their memory alive.

There is no one face of grief. Grief does not discriminate, it is very likely we will all be affected by a bereavement regardless of age, faith, culture and wealth. Specifically, we need to help all minority groups who are often stigmatised and help to support anyone, anywhere who needs it.

There is no set time to grieve. Some say that you get over grief or eventually move on. While the effects of grief will lessen over time you never really get over a loss. Once the practical parts of a bereavement, such as a funeral, are over, things get back to normal. But this is often the time when the bereaved most need support, when they can feel most alone and isolated.

I think Terri Irwin (Australian Naturalist) put it very well when she said, “Grief is never something you get over. You don’t wake up one morning and say, ‘I’ve conquered that; now I’m moving on.’ It’s something that walks beside you every day. And if you can learn how to manage it and honour the person that you miss, you can take something that is incredibly sad and have some form of positivity”.

So if you know someone who has been bereaved, lend an ear or a thoughtful message and be there for them. Hypnotherapy has several techniques that can help those struggling with a recent loss. If you or someone you know could benefit from hypnotherapy then contact me.

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Grief Awareness Day

30 August is National Grief Awareness Day. If you have not experienced grief yet in your life you have been very fortunate, but it’s highly likely you will at some point. This day is about examining grief and raising awareness both of how to cope with grief yourself and how to help others.

Grief is a complex response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone you loved. Although usually less extreme is can be a response to the loss of something else, such as a large amount of money, a job or a cherished pet. Grief is usually thought of as an emotional response but it can have physical, cognitive, behavioural, social, cultural and philosophical dimensions as well.

Many believe in the five stages of grief and this is a good way to describe the process. The stages are;
• Denial. The first reaction is disbelief. Some sort of mistake must have happened. It is natural to cling to some hope no matter how unrealistic it might be.
• Anger. When denial has run its course then frustration and anger at the situation is common. Responses such as ‘Why has this happened?’, ‘Who is responsible?’, ‘Why me?’.
• Bargaining. This involves the hope that the crisis can somehow be avoided. This may include negotiation with god to have time to achieve something, perhaps attend an important event, in exchange for a lifestyle change.
• Depression. You despair at the reality of the situation. In this stage you may become withdrawn, sullen and mournful.
• Acceptance. You embraces the reality of the situation and the inevitability of the outcome. In the case of people who are dying, this acceptance often is reached before the loved ones around them.

What these steps don’t convey is that the stages are not always sequential. A grieving person may not always go through them once and you can bounce between them for minutes, hours, days or even months. For example, when my Partner’s father died, he was extremely busy with work. He dealt with practical aspects, arranged the funeral, etc., but did not really grieve. It was the first anniversary of the death that triggered a grieving process. Each person is different, as is their methods of grief and coping.

Grief is a normal reaction to a loss and in most cases will lessen over time and not cause any lasting problems. The amount of time spent grieving and in each stage of the process can vary from person to person and depend on the nature of the loss. But, some people find it difficult to move on and this can cause problems that may need some additional help. Hypnotherapy can help to:
• Reduce the symptoms of grief
• Organise their grief so that you can grieve but not all the time
• Find a way to grieve that doesn’t overwhelm you
• Change your perception of the loss
• Deal with feelings of (survivors) guilty or regret
• Reconnect to memories of the person, without painful feelings or distress
• Allow you to access feelings of calm and strength
• Assist you to socialise and reintegrate into society
• Empower you to achieve necessary goals and tasks

When someone has experienced a loss it can be hard to know what to do or say. I know when I have lost close relatives, some of friends withdrew not knowing what to do or say and not wanting to make things worse. But in fact, a helping hand, a laugh and a joke or a comforting presence can go a long way. So, offer that helping hand, lend an ear or a thoughtful message and be there for them. Help, how and when you can, and if they are struggling then encourage them to seek expert help. If you or someone you know could benefit from hypnotherapy then contact me.

And finally, remember, as George Elliot (British Author) said, “Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them”.