Gary Rycroft column

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This time of year can be tricky for many people for many reasons.

The traditional carols exclaim “Joy to the World”, but that’s not the universal Christmas experience of all mankind.

It is a particularly difficult time for anyone who has been bereaved by the death of a loved one.

Research released by the Dying Matters Coalition this week indicates that nearly half of people bereaved in the last 5 years find milestone events like Birthdays and Christmas particularly difficult.

Sat around the table for Christmas Dinner trying to be jovial must be challenging if your thoughts are with someone who is not there.

The same research by Dying Matters found that most of those who have been bereaved think that people in Britain are uncomfortable talking to the recently bereaved and have experienced behaviour such as friends and neighbours changing the subject, or even deliberately avoiding them, rather than talk about the person who has died.

My own view is that this is not a case of friends and neighbours not

caring; it’s just they don’t know what to say or do.

Yet the reality is most bereaved people want to talk about their loss and find that doing so makes them feel better.

So usually the best thing to say or do is be normal and talk about “it”.

There is a disconnect here between how we behave as a society - avoid the topic of death and bereaved people - and how we can help those we care about - talk about it and let them talk.

There is no avoiding that Christmas will be difficult for the bereaved, but it will be less so if the rest of us forget our own awkwardness and give those who want to remember more joyous times the space and freedom to do so.

As part of its ‘Being there’ bereavement campaign Dying Matters has produced a new leaflet, also called ‘Being there’ which has suggestions of things to say and do – and not say and do – when someone has been bereaved, all of which are based on bereaved people’s own experiences.

This is available to download for free at www.dyingmatters.org.