Margot Grimwood is a bereavement counsellor at Wessex Cancer Support. She shares her thoughts about managing the death of a loved one:
‘One thing is certain, we’ll all experience grief at some point in our lives. It affects everyone differently, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, and there’s no time limit on grief. It can affect us at any time and be triggered by many things – photos, music, smells, places we’ve visited.
‘Death, dying and grief are often seen as taboo subjects with many of us not wanting to talk about them. It’s quite common to think that if we don’t talk about dying, it won’t happen. But that makes it incredibly hard for those going through the process.
‘I hear a lot that clients feel like they are a burden to others when processing the death of a loved one and so put pressure on themselves to put on a brave face despite the feeling of crumbling inside. It’s a common misconception that someone ‘should’ be feeling ‘better’ or have ‘moved on’ when certain periods of time have passed.
‘There’s no right or ‘normal’ way to grieve. All sorts of emotions can be expected, and in no particular order. These feelings may be frightening and upsetting. Often clients are surprised when they have angry feelings, either with themselves or with the person who has died, or with the way other family members or friends might be dealing with the same loss. But it’s sometimes useful to have a reminder – either from a loved one or a professional, that any feelings are OK. Often when feelings are expressed out loud in the right setting, they can lose some of the power over us.’
‘It’s also normal to feel physical symptoms when someone dies. You may feel real heartache, as if you’ve been hit in the chest.’
At Wessex Cancer Support, we recognise the value in normalising experiencing grief and all the emotions that might arise. Another common feeling that isn’t talked about much is relief. It can feel uncomfortable to be relieved after learning of the death of a loved one, but the knowledge that they are no longer suffering, or coming to the end of a caring responsibility can leave people feeling unexpectedly relived.
‘Finding a way to process your grief is important. It can really help to have a safe space, away from friends and family where you can share how you’re really feeling. We’re here for you. It can feel daunting taking the first steps, but by talking to one of our trained counsellors about your feelings, it normalises it. You’re not a burden to us. You can say whatever you want and you won’t be judged’.
Erin was 19 when her Mum died. She had counselling at our Bournemouth cancer support centre. She says:
“My counsellor was gracious and a calming influence on me. I was allowed to talk with no judgement and I came to understand the rollercoaster of emotions I was going through. I understood that some of the confusing emotions I was dealing with were valid and nothing to be ashamed of. Also, I was able to give myself time and permission to grieve.
“When you lose someone, it’s a really busy time. There’s so much to do, people to phone, relatives coming over, funeral arrangements and so much more. Because of Wessex Cancer Support, I was able to have time where I could step back from that, to allow myself to go through the motions of my grief and eventually come to terms with the loss of my Mum.”
If you feel like bereavement support might be beneficial to you, please get in touch. You can email email us here and we’ll arrange to have a chat with you. Together, we can put together a package of support that best meets your needs. Too many people feel isolated or alone when someone has died. We see it as a privilege to be alongside our clients during times like this – it’s what we’re here for.
As well as individual support, we have a new counsellor-led bereavement support group where you can meet others who are in a similar situation. The group will meet weekly in our Bournemouth support centre on Tuesdays between 10.15am and 11.15am. Please contact the centre directly to pre-book your place.
You can also find bereavement support through Hampshire County Council, here. The website includes advice about what needs to be done legally following a death.