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Lizzie: How to communicate your grief to others

Lizzie: How to communicate your grief to others

Home » Advice » Lizzie: How to communicate your grief to others
Photo of Lizzie, a smiling young woman with long blonde hair

Written by Lizzie, a Winston’s Wish Content Creator

In some parts of China, the official mourning period is 100 days. In Ghana, funerals are week-long events advertised on billboards for everyone to see. In some Indigenous communities, death wailing is a typical mourning practice. Communicating grief therefore varies greatly around the world, depending on a person’s country, religion and culture. 

But, no matter what your background or beliefs, you may find it difficult to express your grief in a way that feels comfortable for you. Especially after the funeral, when everyone goes back to their busy lives, how do you explain that you’re still grieving? Whether it’s been two weeks or two years after the loss of a loved one, you may need to tell the people around you that you’re grieving. So, if you’re not sure how to do that, we’ve I’ve got a few tips to help you.

Use language that feels right for you

Sometimes half the struggle is knowing what to say and how to say it. Who should you tell? Who shouldn’t you tell? Grief is a complex matter and so putting your feelings into words may be challenging. Hopefully the sentences below will help you to communicate how you’re feeling:

“I might seem a little off at the moment as I’m struggling with the loss of a loved one.”

“I’m scared to open up but I want to let you know that I’m having a hard time. ”

“I’m having a difficult time dealing with the loss of __, would you mind if I called you for a chat?”

“I’m really missing _, is it okay if I speak to you about them?”

“I don’t think I’ve properly processed my grief and would appreciate your support at this time.”

“I’m struggling to find a way to express myself and how I’m feeling but I wanted to let you know that I’m dealing with the loss of a loved one.”

“I could really use a friend right now as I’m struggling with feelings of grief.”

Don’t worry if you don’t always get it right. The person you tell may seem uncomfortable or awkward and that’s okay. It is brave to share how you’re feeling. It encourages other people to open up and speak about their feelings, creating deeper and more meaningful connections. Most of us just want to say the right thing and speaking about death makes a lot of us feel uncomfortable or scared, so if someone is quiet at first, they may come back to you once they’ve thought about how to respond.

It’s important to remember that you can’t control how other people react. Hopefully you’re greeted with love and understanding but if not, don’t lose faith. Be proud of yourself for expressing your emotions and being open. At least now the people around you will know what you’re going through and can be more sensitive to your situation. 

Share with those you trust

I advise sharing your feelings with the people that you trust. Telling someone your deepest, darkest emotions can make you feel vulnerable and exposed. So think about who you feel most comfortable with – that’s probably the best place to start. As the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved, so it may be enough to tell just one person in your life. You don’t have to tell everyone that you’re grieving. Of course, you can and for some people being completely honest is a useful coping mechanism. For others, sharing feels safer with close friends and family.

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Try a grief support group

Sure, the thought of a grief group might make your toes curl. Sitting with strangers and talking about how you feel might be your idea of a nightmare. But, it might surprise you how much you enjoy connecting with people who are going through the same thing. Having a conversation with people who genuinely understand how you’re feeling could be really reassuring.

While the people in your life want to support you, if they haven’t lost someone they love, they may not totally understand how you’re feeling. You have the power to find people who will. Grief can be a lonely experience and joining a grief support group could help you feel less alone.

Commemorate your loved one

Commemorate your loved oneAnother way to communicate your grief is through rituals and activities. Once the funeral is over, there are few opportunities to bring people together to share in this loss. So why not create your own day? Set aside some time to acknowledge this person and what they mean to you. Perhaps on their birthday or a random day you could organise an activity such as a meal or tea party, inviting friends and family to honour their life.

This is also a great way to show people that you are still grieving and may need their support. Because everyday life doesn’t allow much space for grieving, setting aside this time gives you more room to speak openly and how you are coping with the loss.

Try speaking to a counsellor or therapist

If you’re finding it difficult to articulate how you’re feeling, you may find it helpful to speak with a counsellor or therapist. In this safe and supportive space, you can express exactly how you’re feeling in total confidence. Over time, you’ll develop a better understanding of how to deal with these complex emotions. A therapist can also help you to communicate your grief to others if that is something you are struggling with. While friends and family can be a strong support system, it isn’t always possible to grieve openly in front of them. Seeking professional support gives you this space.

Grieving looks different for everyone, as no two people are the same. So be kind to yourself and trust that it does get easier.

How to speak to Winston’s Wish

If you’re struggling with grief right now, Winston’s Wish is here to help and here to listen. Winston’s Wish provides support for grieving children and young people (up to the age of 25). We offer one-to-one and group support sessions. We also have lots of online resources and a Helpline, email and live chat service where you can talk to bereavement professionals.

You can call us for free on 08088 020 021 (open 8am-8pm, Monday to Friday), email ask@winstonswish.org or use our live chat (open 3-8pm, Monday to Friday) and find out more on our Get Support page.

If you need urgent support in a crisis, you can contact the 24/7 Winston’s Wish Crisis Messenger by texting WW to 85258.