Today is Grief Awareness Day, a day mostly marked in the US but recognised and observed by some in the UK and elsewhere too. Quenby, Community Health Development Analyst at Mentally Healthy Leeds, has taken this opportunity to raise awareness around the complexity of grief and the need to make room for this in person-centred care.
I’ve been thinking a lot about grief over the past year. I’ve spent a fair chunk of my professional life in the last year learning about grief and researching how people coped with bereavement and loss during the pandemic. It’s also been a big part of my personal life. I’ve been supporting several people through their grieving processes and experienced a few losses of my own. I’ve learned a lot from all this, but one thing stands out above all. Grief is a universal human experience, and at the same time, an incredibly personal process.
We all feel loss when someone important to us dies: the pain is the shadow of the relationship that you had with them. Beyond that, the experience is so different from person to person – shaped by culture, lived experience, age, or just random variation. People feel grief differently, express it differently, deal with it differently, and need support for it in different ways. As much as we try to fit these experiences into different boxes to make them easier to handle, they defy easy categorisation. Grief is complicated and messy because so are relationships (whether they’re between partners, friends, family, or other loved ones). And things can be even more complicated when you have a difficult history with the person who passed away.
Making Space for All Forms of Grief
Back in November, my grandfather died, and I didn’t real feel much about it. I hadn’t had a meaningful conversation with him since I was about 10, and barely seen him at all in the intervening 15 years. I had no relationship with him, and I cared no more about him than I would about a stranger – because of that I really didn’t have anything to grieve for. But there’s an expectation that you should grieve when a family member passes away, so I felt guilty about it.
In contrast when my cat died it hit me like a hammer to the chest. A needy, snuggly, ball of fluff; Sooty was my constant companion. She was a part of my life for over 2 years, and her death left a hole in my life, which is still healing. But most people wouldn’t treat that kind of loss as serious.
It’s important to recognise the necessity of grief, to make space for it and allow it to naturally unfold. But as part of person-centred care we also need to make space for forms of grief which fall outside our ‘normal’ ideas of how people grieve and who we grieve for.
Grief Support Services
If you have been affected by reading this article or are currently experiencing grief, there are a range of services available which might be able to support you through this.
- WYH Health and Care Partnership Grief and Loss Support Service offers online and phone support from 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week. Contact them at: