“We all have a responsibility to talk about death and dying, not only because we will have to face it at some time in our lives, but also to support our, family, friends, neighbours and co-workers in their time of loss.”
Good grief is what occurs when people who are bereaved are given the right kind of support and comfort at a difficult time in their lives. More importantly it is the kind of support that comes from the community in which they work and live. While some people may need expert assistance such as grief and bereavement counselling or help from their GP, this only occurs in a small per cent of the bereaved population. What most people need is acknowledgment that others are aware of their loss by having someone to talk to them, listen or just be on hand to share some time with.
Social isolation can be one of the detrimental side effects of a loss. It does not mean that the person is physically always alone, although this may happen, it refers to the person who is not allowed or not given the opportunity to discuss their loss. This can occur most often in the work place. As one bereaved person put it:
“My father died two weeks ago and the people I work with don’t want to know. They change the conversation or ignore me altogether. No one has mentioned my loss. I feel so alone.”
We will all die and most will lose a loved one before their own death occurs. Nevertheless in the UK over seventy per cent of the population avoid talking about death. This is not because as a nation we are unkind or unwilling; it is because most people do not know how to talk about death appropriately. How to talk about death is a life lesson that has been forgotten or submerged.
By avoiding engaging with this inevitable aspect of life with others, as a society we run the risk of excluding those who are bereaved of all ages. This can be most damaging when the exclusion comes from our peers. In the UK there are up to 5.5 million new mourners per annum including immediate family members and extending to long-term work colleagues and friends. The by-products of social isolation or exclusion include but are not limited to:
- Increased alcoholism,
- Drug abuse,
- Low self-esteem,
- Clinical depression
- Increased violence
At CEDAR we are here to help people learn how to talk about death in healthy and imaginative ways. It is important to start your conversations about death before bereavement or illness occurs. This is to help a person get use to the language of death and loss before they find themselves in the middle of a crisis, where often words become unfamiliar, frightening or seem threatening.
“Support Good Grief. Let people know you are open to discussing death, dying or loss. Wear a Green Leaf.”
We have also begun a Green Leaf project to raise death awareness. For example wearing a symbolic green leaf acts in a similar way to the red AIDS ribbon or the pink Breast Cancer ribbon. It lets people know that you are open to talking about death, dying or loss. You may choose to wear a Green Leaf because you have been bereaved recently or in the past; or simply that you care about others who are bereaved and want to show you are open to talking, sharing, or listening.
At CEDAR we have a variety of ways to help you learn more about death and society. Explore our cultural and educational Community, Death Resources, Book Reviews and Useful Links to get you started; attend an Event; or take one of our online or community Classes.
If you want to support the idea of Good Grief through our Green Leaf project, please pass this on – talking about death won’t hurt you and may help others through the difficult journeys in life.