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Blog: There are no shoulds about grief

Bereavement Counselling

We know that sometimes, talking about death, dying and grief can be really tough. Sometimes, people feel uncomfortable about it and they aren’t quite sure what to say. This Dying Matters Week, we want to share the below with you from Ann-Marie Lloyd, our Counselling Services Manager, who talks about grief and how everyone deals with things differently.

People say that you’ll get over the loss of a loved one with time, but that isn’t quite right. We never really get over the loss of someone close to us, and things never really go back to normal. Instead, we learn to live with it and a new normal develops.

It’s a bit like a tree with a nail stuck in it. The nail doesn’t change over time - it doesn’t get smaller or less intrusive, but the tree manages to live on anyway, growing around the nail. This thought, right now, might be a long way off, so what can you do now to help at this time?

No two people grieve the same way. Grief is messy, chaotic and doesn’t follow a pattern. There will be times when you feel happy, sad, loss and anger all at the same time. Then, there will be times when you feel nothing at all. It’s ok to feel whatever you’re feeling, even if you don’t know how that is.

One word I really dislike is ‘should’. ‘I should be better now it’s been six months’. Who says you should be better? You can feel however you need to. It’s important you give yourself permission to grieve.

Find someone to talk to about your feelings. It doesn’t have to be someone close to you, just someone you feel you can open up to. Often people don’t want to go to see a counsellor because they worry about what other people would say or think about them. Try not to worry about other people - this is about YOU.

Do what makes you happy. Often we get so caught up with our sadness we stop thinking about what makes us happy. If you like singing, join a choir. If you like keeping fit, go get active. If you like painting, then paint. Take time to look after yourself.

Try to get back to basics. It can be hard when we’re upset to focus on basic things such as sleeping or eating properly. If you can’t eat big meals, eat little and often. Try to go to bed when you normally do and resist the urge to nap during the day. You’ll be going through enough already without adding tiredness and hunger to it.

Throughout your grief, you might feel selfish or guilty for putting yourself first. But what advice you would give a friend if they came to you feeling the same way? My guess is you’d advise them to take care of themselves. So, take that advice and show yourself the same kindness.

As a final note, I’ve been talking about the feelings we have when someone we love dies. There are times, however, when there may be something else going on as well. Perhaps you've suffered with depression before and a loss is bringing it back. Perhaps there are lots of other things going on for you and you’re really struggling to cope. If this is the case, please talk to someone about this. Your GP will be able to help, and don’t forget we’re always here for you too.

If you or someone you love has been bereaved by cancer, we can offer help and support. To find out more call our free Support Line on 0808 808 1010 or find out more here.