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The changing face of grief

Funerals have been very different over the past few months, with a restriction on the number of people who are able to attend and a limit on some of the services we are permitted to provide. What has been most difficult for people who have recently been bereaved is the affect this is having on how they are able to grieve.

We have cared for families who weren’t able to spend those precious last moments with a loved one, which they have found difficult to come to terms with. Added to that, funerals are usually that chance to give somebody you love a hug, when words are sometimes hard to come by.

Not everyone feels the same when grieving but many people feel the need to be with friends or family, to chat over old photos or simply enjoy a cup of tea. This has largely been impossible, particularly for older or vulnerable folk.

We have written before about the rituals of grief and how a funeral service can be part of that. Attending a service or gathering to mark a person’s passing is part of the grieving process. Funerals have many rituals – whether it’s the way the coffin is brought to the chapel or simply the manner in which everyone sits or stands at the same time. There are ways we behave at that time which are part of the ‘ritual’.

Psychologists believe that these rituals help us in times of ‘chaos and disorder’. Having a set routine or certain rituals to perform helps people by bringing a sense of control and security.

Under lockdown, people who are grieving have had some of those rituals denied them. After a person has died, some people find comfort in doing things which reminds them of their loved one, perhaps an activity they always used to do together. It could have been a day out at the seaside or simply a pint in the local pub. Again, it has largely not been possible to do those things recently.

After 11 years of running our Bereavement Group, we know that talking to somebody in the same position can also be comforting and we know that our regular members are missing our get-togethers, although some are keeping in touch by phone or, as restrictions are being eased, by meeting for a cup of tea in a garden.

What we are very aware of is that there are potential new members who would have been invited to our Bereavement Group by now. We are, though, already considering how we can run our group moving forward, although we appreciate it will look different initially.

When somebody first joins the Tester & Jones Bereavement Group, we usually invite them to our smaller group first, where the introduction is a little gentler and they will hear friendly presentations about dealing with grief, as well as practical advice. We are currently looking at how we can adapt this introduction to reflect the changes recently.

Some families we are supporting are considering holding memorial services for their loved ones when social distancing rules allow. This will give people an opportunity to mark that person’s passing in a way which reflects them. We are also thinking about a way in which we can remember the people that have come into our care over the past few months.

While we ease ourselves out of lockdown, we are realising that there are many people are out there who will need additional support navigating grief in this strange time.

In a recent article, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, the shadow mental health minister said: “Anxiety and depression are on the rise across the country - yet it could be months or even years, before the full extent of the impact of the inability to properly grieve for a loved one is understood.”

Here at Tester & Jones, we have always said that the support we provide goes on after a funeral has taken place. While we mentioned that our Bereavement Group will be welcoming members again when possible, we can also offer families we have supported, who are struggling to come to terms with the loss of a loved one, access to free bereavement support.

The service is available as part of a partnership between trade association, the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) – of which we are a member - and bereavement support specialist Professional Help.

The scheme, SAIFCare, was launched in response to the growing awareness of the need for many people to seek support following the death of a close friend or relative.

Under SAIFCare, family members are offered up to six free counselling sessions, which can be used by one person or split between various members of a family. Delivered by a qualified bereavement counsellor, the sessions can take place at a location of the bereaved person’s choosing or by telephone and even online chat and email.

To find out more about the support offered following a bereavement and the role of SAIFCare, please do give us a call on tel: 01892 611811.

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Tester & Jones, London Road, Crowborough, East Sussex, TN6 2TT

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