#OpenUpToGrief – At the Launch of National Grief Awareness Week

This was a great event, emotionally harrowing (of course, how could it not be?) and interspersed with moments of hope, fire and shared desire that things can and have to be better.

Building on Baby Loss Awareness Week and World Mental Health day the conversations are shifting and National Grief Awareness Week and all its participants will play their part in this. Being open to speak, knowing where support is available, joining the dots between bereavement, mental health provision and suicide prevention. In most of the conversations I had today suicide featured in some way.

There were too familiar discussions of the lack of awareness, the lack of knowing where support was available for people whether they had lost someone that day or 40 years ago. This reinforced the week’s messaging around no time limit for grief. Linda from The Good Grief Trust spoke of her work in talking with schools and the gaps in knowledge around training, policies and support for bereavement in schools, how many schools were unaware of charities like Child Bereavement UK.

There was fantastic work going on at the same time as acknowledgement some areas were not so lucky. I spoke with Cruse who told me of the wealth of support they have on offer and the training available to staff and volunteers to handle suicide prevention, and trauma. When people find it difficult to find local tailored support, generally there will be a Cruse service available.

We talked of how difficult it can be to raise awareness, to reach a wider audience when your cause is seen as too niche and how sometimes charities and organisations geared to support people through difficult times don’t have the bereavement angle covered quite so well.

I spoke with people working to improve funeral care and shared stories of where I’ve seen and heard these things badly handled with vulnerable people making choices at the worst possible time, and the huge gulf between quality of services, compassion and care. How even after the ashes scandals (note the plural) bereaved parents of babies are being told that there won’t be ashes, or given limited information about what shared burial means, and how all of these things have an impact of how people grieve. One of my earliest posts was about comparing funeral directors, I spoke to Kim Bird who has done exactly that.

Signposting is one of those innocuous words but it can have a life changing (even saving) effect when people supporting the bereaved are better equipped to be able to find the resources and help they need. Hearing how Freddie’s mother, Charlotte, struggled to find support when her 13 month old son died and how she was passed from charity to charity with increasing desperation was heart wrenching.

Having access to online tools and search facilities can help reduce that dispiriting experience and help organisations or people find support when the bereaved feel unable to.

This was a great event and while look forward is probably the wrong word, I’m positive about the potential for this week to have real benefit for many of the complicated facets of death, dying, and grieving.

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