Grief. A feeling that can be so different depending on who is experiencing it. Two people could be grieving the same loss yet reacting completely differently. For some, they’re confronted with grief immediately and intensely after losing someone. For others, it lurks and hides and rears its head months or even years after losing someone or something. The many shapes and sizes of grieving can mean that you might look for different ways to help cope with a loss. Some people might find comfort in sharing memories of something/someone lost while others might prefer to leave their memories unspoken. Some might find that crying helps them to cope with their loss and others might look to healthy distractions, such as taking up a new hobby or activity.
Loss can feel so earth-shatteringly disruptive, particularly when a loved one is lost. As you look to navigate a new and scary world without them, you might be looking for ways to help the pain feel less all encompassing. An international day of support might not take the pain away, but it could help to lift the blanket of grief, even briefly, to reveal a community of support, hope and reflection. #NationalReflectionDay, celebrating its third year on March 23rd, is “an opportunity to remember our loved ones who’ve died, support people who are grieving, and connect with each other.”
What is Grief?
Grief is a response to a loss and the feelings and emotions you’re left with after you experience that loss. Like grief, loss can come in many shapes and forms. The most apparent forms being the loss of a loved one and the ending of a relationship. Other forms of loss can include the loss of a physical ability, somebody in your life experiencing a serious illness, a loss of financial stability and undergoing a change in living circumstances.
Although often different for whomever is experiencing it, there are some grieving commonalities that can be felt when facing loss. Some of the most common feelings and symptoms include:
- Sadness or depression
- And a general state of overwhelm
Loss can be one of life’s most challenging things to navigate. Losing a loved one, especially, can feel incredibly lonely, personal and testing of everything that you are. Research has indicated that 5-10% of children and adolescents who have lost a loved one will experience depression, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and/or prolonged grief disorder following bereavement. Although for many people, grief-related symptoms following the death of a loved one tend to decrease over time and eventually, can be easier to manage.
What is National Day of Reflection?
Organised by Marie Curie, the first National Day of Reflection initiated in the UK on March 23rd 2021 and was organised to remember those lost and affected by COVID-19. The 23rd of March was decided to mark the day as it was the first day of lockdown in the UK during 2020. As we move on from lockdowns and restrictions, the day remains as an opportunity to reflect on those we’ve lost throughout the years. National Day of Reflection aims to encourage people to take a moment, a minute, or a day to reflect on those who we’ve lost, either individually or collectively, during the pandemic and outside of those years.
Research surrounding grief and loss suggests that opening up to others about your grieving process and spending time with friends and family can help your mental health in the long run, helping to confront and understand the feelings encompassing grief and helping to stop negative and destructive emotions from building up internally. In one study, 50% of those grieving intensely said spending more time with friends and family was extremely helpful throughout their grieving process.
Listening about grief and loss is as important as talking about it. In the UK, 23% of adults who have been bereaved of a close family member wish their friends and family had called to talk, suggesting that many people want to talk about their loss and grieving process but are looking for the people in their life to start the conversation. National Day of Reflection could be an opportunity to reach out to the people in your life who have lost someone and to check in on them. Even a simple “how are you doing?” can go a long way.
You Are Not Alone
Even though loss is something that most of us will experience throughout our lives, there isn’t a catch-all treatment or fast-track route to feeling better after experiencing it. It’s tough. However, you might find some of the following suggestions helpful in coping:
- For some, grief can be a social process. For others, even the thought of being around other people can be overwhelming. Remember that there is no ‘right’ way to do things. Be patient with yourself and don’t rush into socialising if it doesn’t feel right. When you’re ready, try to spend some time with the people you trust the most in life. You don’t have to discuss the big things, you don’t even have to talk, simply being around them could offer you some comfort during the darker days.
- National Day of Reflection is an opportunity to connect with other people who are going through loss or grief. Talking to someone who understands might be a good way to communicate your feelings with someone who has likely felt them too. You can sign up for updates here.
- There can, of course, be those surprise bad days that come seemingly out of nowhere. Having mental health first aid trainers in workplaces or throughout communities can help to reassure people who are grieving that the option is there for them to speak to someone if they need support.
- Above all, remember you’re not alone. Everybody has their own unique reactions to loss and there are many charities in the UK that can support and help you through. Some of these charities including Cruse, Mind and The Good Grief Trust.
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