National Grief Awareness Week

December the 2nd to December the 8th officially marks National Grief Awareness Week. Over 2020-2021 approximately 614,000 people died across England and Wales, leaving at least three million bereft people behind. National Grief Awareness Week (NGAW) is there to support those suffering from loss and show them they’re not alone. Here we take a look further at what National Grief Awareness Week is and how you can get involved.

What is National Grief Awareness Week?

National Grief Awareness Week from the Good Grief Trust is designed to offer support to those grieving in the UK and those working with the bereaved. It aims to raise awareness of grief and help those suffering as well as those supporting those that have lost someone. The theme for 2022 is "to open conversations and normalise grief". Too often, people experience grief in silence, not wanting to be a burden on those around them. It’s important to highlight that sharing those thoughts and feelings can help you move on and make the grief process easier, not harder. According to the Good Grief trust, they want to normalise grief and get people talking:

- To break the taboo

- To ensure grief becomes an easier topic to discuss

- To provide guidance on what to do and what to say to help the bereaved

They also want:

  • To create safe spaces to talk about grief
  • To help those living with grief
  • To improve our understanding of grief
  • To develop grief literacy
  • To learn to signpost people to specialist grief charities or networks
National Grief Awareness Week The Living Urn

What is grief?

Grief is the response to a loss in your life. This is most commonly felt for those that have died and tends to be someone you were close to or had a bond with. Their departure from your life, whether sudden or expected (such as through a long illness) can be extremely difficult to experience. The grief felt when this happens can manifest as an overwhelming emotion that can feel very hard to pick yourself up from. Which is why National Grief Awareness Week is so important. This aims to show it’s ok to have these feelings and that what you’re experiencing is completely normal. You could feel numb, angry at the person who has died, depressed or detached - there is no wrong way to experience grief.

What is important is getting the help and care you need to work through these feelings. 

According to the Bereavement Commission, "39% of bereaved people reported difficulties in getting support from friends or family" while "74% of bereaved people with high or severe vulnerability are not accessing formal bereavement services or mental health support." This highlights just how vital the correct level of support is, both on a personal and professional level. 

How can you help someone suffering from grief?

Whether you are looking to support a colleague, employee, friend or family member, there are many things you can do during NGAW - and beyond - to support them. 

Acknowledge their loss

Grief is often seen as a taboo subject but this mustn’t be the case. To avoid this, create a culture whereby those in your care, whether it is a workplace, school, college or family gathering know their loss is considered. Instead of skirting around the subject, approach them and offer condolences such as that you're "sorry for their loss.” Appreciate that what they’re going through at the moment is overwhelming and you’ll support them however you can. Ask how they are feeling, and how they’re coping and see if there’s anything you can do.

Encourage them to talk to you about how they feel

If you ask someone how they are and they reply with “I’m fine” it can be worth trying to broach it more to encourage them to open up. People tend not to know how much they need to talk until prompted and tend to say they’re ok as they assume this is what the other person wants to hear. Instead, if they say “I’m fine”, reply with “How are you really?” and see if they want to open up. This could encourage some people to share their feelings. Others might not be ready to talk yet which is fine too, but it’s a good idea to encourage them to open up to someone. 

Check-in on them regularly

Grief doesn’t just pass after a few weeks. It’s something that’s felt for months and years to come. Big events such as birthdays, anniversaries and holidays like Christmas can bring grief to the surface again. This is why it’s so important you check on the bereaved regularly, not just at the beginning of their journey. Regularly ask them how they are and if you can support them in any way. They’ll appreciate that you’re there for them and feel supported and comforted.

Where can I find more information?

To find out more about National Grief Awareness Week and how to help, check out the charity website here.