There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.
Washington Irving.

In recent times we have had some questions from people who are going through a difficult time with the loss of someone close to them. So this month we have dedicated this blog to providing what help we can to those of you who are in this situation.

Of course, at some stage in our life we will all lose someone we care about, and my turn came when I lost my mother in 2006 after a ten year battle with dementia, and then my Dad in 2010, after multiple battles with cancer. To say I handled the illness of both my parents poorly would be a massive understatement. I did not want to lose them, and certainly not well before their time, or what felt like that. As a result I was hurting, and I became bitter, sarcastic and angry. I just couldn’t work out why these terrible things happen to such nice people, and people who I felt deserved much better. My parents never had any retirement outside of their battles with their respective diseases, and this was hard to take.

So that’s my story about grief, in a nutshell. It can be hard to take and it can turn us into a person we’d prefer not to be, if we allow that to happen. If I had this time with my parents again, there’s a lot I would have done differently, which I would like to share. So below are some tips which I think, if followed, will give you every chance of getting through a very difficult time in a way that allows you to still function effectively, and keep your head held high.

1. We all lose loved ones, eventually

As difficult as it is to accept, it is a fact of life that the people we love will eventually pass away, and they may suffer in the process. Accepting this is a necessary first step in the grieving process.

2. Talk to friends and family

Talk regularly to your family and friends. They are your best supporters and should be there for you.

3. Take a break from it all

Give yourself regular mental breaks from thinking about what is going on. The situation with your loved one can become overwhelming if you allow it to.  It will make you less happy and far less useful to the person who you care about.

4. Widen your focus

Try to widen your focus to the good things that are happening in your life, and that of your friends and wider community. This will help you to see the bigger picture and become more resilient in the process.

5. Do your grieving now

Realise that you don’t have to wait until your loved one passes away to do your grieving. You can do it now. This will reduce the amount of emotional turmoil you go through, and put you in a much better position to help the person with the illness, your family, and others.

6. Be nice to yourself

During this difficult time it’s easy to be super-critical of ourselves, so be your own best friend and don’t expect yourself be perfect at everything you do. This is a tough time, so be kind to yourself.

7. Be grateful for what you had

Savour the time you have with your ill friend or relative, and be grateful they have been in your life. It’s better to be grateful for what you’ve had together, than sorry it had to end.

8. Just say it

Say whatever you need to say to your ill friend or relative, now. Don’t wait, the sooner you have the discussion, the sooner you will both be better off. And if you need to apologise, don’t mess around, just do it, with all your heart. You never know what will come back.

9. Allow yourself some happiness

Realise that you are allowed to be happy during these difficult times. I spent years thinking I couldn’t be happy because of my mother’s condition. If there is light in your life, allow it in, and share it with others.

10. You will get through this

Recognise that this difficult time will eventually end, and you will get through it. You may even come out stronger as a result, and be able to help others faced with similar situations. Just hang in there, as things will feel better eventually. And if you can’t smile very much now, realise that you will again one day.

I hope this helps any of you who are struggling with grief.
With the very best wishes,