Unveiling the Silence: Breaking the Stigma of Grief
Grief is a natural and universal experience that follows any kind of loss
This week, ITV political editor, Robert Peston talked openly about the death of his wife, Sian in September 2012 of lung cancer, on an episode of the Westminster Insider podcast.
Peston claimed to be traumatised for years afterwards and described the way Brits process death as ‘unhealthy.’ He acknowledged how he used his work as a ‘displacement’ to try to escape from his grief, and said, “Grief is… it’s a sort of dirty secret.”
Although grief is a natural and universal experience that follows any kind of loss, it often remains shrouded in silence and stigma. Society's discomfort with discussing grief openly has led to it being hidden away.
However, by acknowledging the importance of grief and promoting open conversations, we can create a more compassionate and supportive society for those who are grieving.
Discussing grief openly helps educate others about the complexities and long-lasting impact of bereavement. Increased awareness promotes empathy, reduces stigma, and encourages a more compassionate approach towards those who are grieving.
How can we, and do we open up about grief to others to help them understand?
Find a quiet, comfortable, and private setting where you can speak openly without distractions or interruptions. Consider the timing, and make sure both you and the person you want to talk to have enough time to have a meaningful conversation.
Select someone you trust and feel comfortable with. This could be a close friend, family member, therapist, or support group member. Make sure the person is a good listener and is empathetic and understanding.
Before talking to someone else, take some time to reflect on your feelings. Understand what you're experiencing and why you want to share it with someone.
Express your feelings using "I" statements to avoid making the other person defensive or feeling responsible for your emotions. For example, say, "I feel sad and overwhelmed since the loss," instead of "You make me feel sad and overwhelmed."
Share specific thoughts and emotions related to your loss. This can help the listener better understand what you're going through.Describe how the loss has impacted your daily life, relationships, and overall well-being.
It's okay to show vulnerability and raw emotions. It's a natural part of the grieving process. Crying or showing strong emotions is not a sign of weakness but rather a sign of your connection to what you've lost.
After sharing your feelings, give the other person a chance to respond. They may offer support, empathy, or simply a listening ear. Be open to their reactions, and remember that not everyone may react in the same way.
Let the person know if there are specific ways they can support you or if there are things you'd prefer not to discuss. Respect your own emotional boundaries, and don't feel pressured to share more than you're comfortable with.
If your grief is overwhelming, persistent, or interfering significantly with your daily life, it may be helpful to seek support from a therapist, counsellor, or support group. Professional help can provide you with tools and coping strategies to navigate your grief.