Sue Ryder launches campaign to encourage people to open up about grief

National healthcare charity Sue Ryder has launched its #JustSaySomething campaign in a bid to encourage the public to open up about grief.

Thursday, 13th February 2020, 5:00 am

A new survey commissioned by the charity, which has a hospice in Longthorpe, has uncovered that more than half of bereaved people (51 per cent) living in the East of England experience poor mental health – such as feelings of depression or anxiety – following the death of a loved one.

When questioned on which mental health conditions they felt were triggered by their grief, three-quarters stated that they have experienced feelings of depression while 67 per cent said that they had felt anxious after experiencing a bereavement.

Drilling down into why bereavement causes feelings of poor mental health, Sue Ryder found that almost two-fifths (39 per cent) of the respondents felt they were unable to open up about their grief to those around them – despite ‘being able to talk freely’ being listed by those surveyed as the number one action that would be most likely to help them following the death of a loved one.

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Lottie Tomlinson opening up for the campaign

When the charity asked members of the public, 51 per cent admitted that they would be scared of saying the wrong thing and only 48 per cent of people said that they would know what kind of help or support to offer someone who was bereaved.

More than a third of people living in the East of England who had experienced a bereavement (38 per cent) said that their friends and family stopped asking how they were feeling after just three weeks of being bereaved; yet close to two thirds (64 per cent) stated that society’s assumption that there was an end to the grieving period was simply untrue.

Sue Ryder has launched its #JustSaySomething campaign, calling for people who have experienced a bereavement to:

1. Open up and #JustSaySomething – whether it be a family member, partner, friend or even colleague - let those close to you know if you are feeling low by simply saying “I’m struggling today” or “this week has been a tough one”.

2. Notice what lifts your mood and share that with your support network – this could be a certain activity or even sharing memories of the person who has died.

3. Remember that there is no timeframe attached to grieving and everyone’s experience of grief is unique.

4. Ask for help and speak to your GP if you are experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety – these could manifest in you struggling to focus, having a lack of energy, isolating yourself, losing interest in things you used to love and finding unhealthy ways to cope, such as heavy drinking.

5. Visit sueryder.org/copingwithgrief for a range of tips and resources to help support you and visit the Sue Ryder Online Bereavement Forum to access peer to peer support from those going through similar experiences to yours.

Sue Ryder’s #JustSaySomething campaign is calling for people supporting somebody through bereavement to:

1. #JustSaySomething and be ready to listen – ‘being able to talk freely’ was cited by those surveyed as the number one action that would be most likely to help them. A simple “how are you feeling?” can be enough to start the conversation.

2. Take your lead from them – check in with them often and let them lead you as to how you can help.

3. Watch out for symptoms of depression or anxiety – these could include struggling to focus, a lack of energy, isolating themselves, losing interest in things they used to love and finding unhealthy ways to cope, such as heavy drinking. If you feel concerned, encourage them to go and speak to their GP.

4. Remember there is no timeframe attached to grieving and checking in with them a year or two after a death can be just as important as in the first few weeks.

5. Visit sueryder.org/copingwithgrief to find further advice and resources to help you to provide the best support.

Supporting the Sue Ryder #JustSaySomething campaign is social media influencer Lottie Tomlinson and TV presenter and stylist Grace Woodward who have opened up about their personal grieving processes.

In a video to support Sue Ryder’s campaign, they talk about the effect bereavement had on their mental health, their support systems and whether they believe there can be an end to grieving.

Lottie, who is supporting the Sue Ryder campaign after losing her mother and sister, said: “I wanted to do this campaign because I want to try to educate people on how they can help someone who is grieving.

“There are so many people who don’t know what to say or how to act. One of the hardest parts for me was people not bringing them up. When you’ve lost someone, you can feel like they are fading away because people aren’t talking about them.

“I definitely developed some anxiety after losing mum, because it’s the scariest thing to lose a parent, especially when you’re so young – and that happened to me. I try and be as strong as I can and put on a brave face, but it is okay to not be okay.”

Emma Rayner’s mum received end of life care at Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice in Peterborough. She said: “I decided that I needed to look after myself and talk through the emotions of losing mum on a regular basis. I was fortunate to be offered help from the hospice’s bereavement support group, which I attended every two weeks for almost a year.

“The love and support offered in this space has been absolutely invaluable in my healing journey. On the hard days, when I sometimes questioned if I could cope and carry on, knowing that I had that truly unique and special space in which to share my grief with others who completely understood really kept me going.

“So much of my recovery was down in large parts to the work I did with my bereavement supporter, and that work encouraged and inspired me to want to help and support others. I completed my training last year and am now a bereavement supporter myself, helping and supporting others after that heartbreaking and unimaginable loss of someone they love.

“It is an amazing feeling knowing that my own pain and heartbreak is now being used to help and support others at the time they need it most.”

Allison Mann, hospice director at Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice, said: “Each of us at some point will most likely experience bereavement or want to support somebody else who is.

“Sue Ryder’s research shows that for many people, bereavement can be a trigger for feelings of depression and anxiety but it also points at some simple ways in which we can better support ourselves and each other.

“We seem to have found ourselves in a perfect storm. People who have experienced a bereavement want to open up yet don’t feel like they can, and those wanting to support those coping with grief are too afraid to say the wrong thing. This leaves us with a damaging silence.

“Whether you are somebody who is grieving and doesn’t know how to ask for help or if you are a partner, friend or colleague of somebody you think may be struggling with their grief, Sue Ryder hopes that our #JustSaySomething campaign can provide people with the confidence to begin those conversations.”