This week sees the UK’s first ever National Grief Awareness Week, encouraging us all to #OpenUpToGrief. The Christmas period can be an especially tough time for those who have been bereaved. We know silence does not make coping with grief any easier. This is why we are proud to support National Grief Awareness Week and together campaign to ‘open up to grief’.
Our silence around death and grief
Earlier this year, we shone a spotlight on our nation’s experiences with death and bereavement. Our A Better Grief report revealed that, in general in our society, we find it extremely difficult to engage in conversation around death and bereavement – whether that’s supporting those grieving or asking for help personally.
Although seven out of ten British adults have suffered at least one bereavement in the last five years, death remains a deeply entrenched taboo, with a veil of silence around the subject. Our poll found that half of us are scared of ‘saying the wrong thing’ to someone recently bereaved.
Yet avoiding the subject out of embarrassment is often the worst thing you can do. Most grieving people want to talk about their loved ones and keep their memory alive.
This taboo has real consequences for those grieving. Feeling uncomfortable talking about death prevents people seeking support, with less than 10% of adults receiving formal support. This can have knock-on effects on employment and health, affecting society more widely.
Let’s bravely bust the taboo
To address this, we are calling for a cultural shift, encouraging open discussion around death and bereavement. Offering people an outlet to talk about their grief and encouraging open discussion is imperative to reduce common feelings of loneliness and isolation. We want to start a national conversation around death and so this week we are calling on us all to ‘bravely bust the taboo’.
We will all experience bereavement at some point in our lives which is why we all have a part to play in supporting those who have lost a loved one. By encouraging honest, open discussion we can create compassionate communities and all experience ‘a better grief’.
But we need to go further, with agencies responsible for health and wellbeing developing services and processes to ensure all can access formal bereavement support when needed.
There’s no doubt that all employers could do more to support members of their workforce who are recently bereaved. We urge the media to help shape the public debate and, above all, policymakers should prioritise this important issue.
Sue Ryder’s mission
Our mission at Sue Ryder is to ensure that everyone – no matter where they live or whatever their circumstances – is able to access flexible bereavement support when they need it.
Our new Online Bereavement Counselling Service provides free, confidential and professional support to anyone grieving for a loved one, whilst our Online Community provides information and peer support for those who have lost a loved one. The site supports more than 8,000 bereaved people every month and continues to grow.
More on National Grief Awareness Week 2019 can be found here.
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Policy and Public Affairs Officer
Niamh is Sue Ryder's Policy and Public Affairs Officer.