Bereavement and grief are terms used to describe the profound sense of loss we experience when someone close to us or who we care about dies.
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It is often difficult and stressful and brings up a mixture of emotions that can feel overwhelming. It is also something that most of us will experience at some point in our lives.
We may experience sadness, numbness, anger, guilt, anxiety, relief, frustration and hopelessness when losing someone close to us. Grief can also feel as much a physical and embodied experience as an emotional one; it is common for sleep and appetite to be disrupted, we may experience low energy levels, even weakness in our muscles or a feeling of physical pain and emptiness.
We must remember that there is no ‘right’ way to grieve and how we react will be influenced by many factors including age, personality type, cultural or religious background, our current circumstances and previous experiences of loss. What is common for all is that grieving is a process that takes time and that most of us need support to navigate our way through.
Caring for someone who is bereaved
If you are caring for someone who has been bereaved, it can feel difficult to know how to help. The good news is that research tells us that you do not need to be a professional or have any significant experience to do so and that simple human kindness can go a long way.
In supporting a friend, family member or neighbour you are doing something of great value so it is equally important to look after your own wellbeing.
Challenges of Covid-19 and bereavement
Covid-19 is affecting all of us and continues to result in a substantial loss of life in the UK and worldwide. The Goldsmiths community will undoubtedly be impacted by loss and bereavement during this time so the need for advice and guidance around this is recognised as vital in supporting our community.
Under normal circumstances, we turn to others in our lives for support. We might gather with friends and family to cry, share happy memories and offer care and support, but the pandemic has meant this isn't always possible. Our hope is that some of the information that follows will offer alternatives.
A bereavement from Covid-19 is likely to be particularly challenging due to many factors including:
- Having little time to prepare for a loved one’s death
- Experiencing a sudden or unexpected loss, making us feel out of control
- Not being able to spend time with a loved one due to risk of infection and social distancing guidelines
- Not being able to observe traditional ways of saying goodbye such as funerals, leading to a lack of closure
- Being isolated at a time when we would want to seek comfort from friends and family
- Practical challenges such as having to arrange funerals or solicitors online
Coping with bereavement
One of the main ways of coping involves finding the courage to ask for help - this can be from friends and family or from a trained professional. For persistent physical problems such as sleep disruption, you should contact your GP, and for help dealing with emotional difficulties, you may choose to contact a counsellor.
Other ways of coping can involve finding ways to remember the person you have lost, like lighting a candle at a certain time each day, making a space in your home to display photographs of your loved one or writing a letter to them saying all the things you did not have a chance to say. Just because the person you have lost is no longer with you physically does not mean that the relationship comes to an end.
Sources of support
Goldsmiths is committed to supporting students and staff who are experiencing bereavement or loss.
If you are in distress and need support straight away, you can call The Samaritans who are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 116 123 for immediate support or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a response within 24 hrs.
Several UK bereavement charities and organisations offer guidance, advice, and support to deal with bereavement during this pandemic, both the practical and psychological aspects:
- Lewisham Bereavement Counselling
- Cruse Bereavement Care
- The Good Grief Trust
- At A Loss
- National Association of Funeral Directors
- The Compassion Friends
- Inspirited Minds
- Marie Curie Telephone Bereavement Support
- Hope Again
- The Bereavement Trust
- Family Lives
- Winston’s Wish
- Quaker Social Action
- Muslim Youth Helpline
- Muslim Council of Britain
- Jewish Bereavement Counselling Service
- NHS Choices
- What's Your Grief?
- The LOSS Foundation
Please note, whilst these apps can be helpful, they are not a replacement for seeking medical advice if you have concerns about any symptoms you are experiencing. All the below are free or low-cost.
- Child Bereavement UK offers an app for 11-25-year-olds who have been bereaved of someone important to them. It can also be used by friends, teachers, parents, and professionals who would like to know how to support bereaved young people
- The Calm website and app can help you practice mindfulness
- Chill Panda uses breathing techniques to help you relax more, worry less and feel better
- Stress & Anxiety Companion provides breathing exercises, relaxing music and games to help calm your mind and change negative thoughts
- Stop Breathe Think is a friendly app to guide people through meditations for mindfulness & compassion. Check-in with how you’re feeling and try short activities tuned to your emotions
Offline reading about bereavement and loss
- On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler (2005)
"The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal, and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to."
- Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief: Joanne Cacciatore Wisdom Publications (2017)
"What makes this book so powerful, and so instructive, is that it simultaneously addresses grief both from the perspective of those who are grieving and from the perspective of those who are in contact with those who are grieving."
- I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One by Brook Noel and Pamela Blair PhD (2008)
"A heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal."