Starting the conversation is tricky. As a society, we aren’t very open to discussing matters of death or grief. 

It can leave you feeling very isolated, but the truth is, you are not alone. At one point or another, everyone will have to deal with the death of a loved one, and all of us will carry the weight of our sadness during these times.

You might feel as though you are being left behind. It can seem like everyone else is carrying on with life as normal while you are still struggling to deal with the death of a loved one and the feelings of loss.

Some of us worry that our grief would burden others if we share our feelings. It can help to consider how you would feel if the shoe were on the other foot. Most of us want to be there for our friends and families when they are struggling. We want to offer the help they need, yet we often deny ourselves that same support.

Talking about the bad parts of life can feel very taboo. As though we should always focus on the positives and shun sharing the sadder moments. But what good does this do for any of us? The reality is that for many of us, talking is part of how we process emotions and move forward. 

Ultimately, it is unhelpful to deny ourselves the opportunity to connect over something so upsetting, and so much a part of life. 

How to start the conversation

Beginning to communicate about death and grief is undoubtedly difficult. Bare Cremation’s Grief and Bereavement Expert discusses some ways to get these conversations going.

  1. Do something else while you talk. It might be something as simple as going for a stroll with someone or cooking together. The trick is to be willing to interact. You could be pleasantly surprised when someone in your community permits you to be vulnerable. It's a lot simpler to talk "shoulder to shoulder" than it is to talk face to face for many people. This is often particularly true for men and teens.
  2. Make a list of everything. Write a letter or in a diary get those ideas out of your brain. Doing this can help you figure out what you want to say, who you want to say it to, and how you want to say it.
  3. Begin small. It's not necessary to sit face to face with someone for an hour to have an open dialogue about grieving. It might just be acknowledging that you've had a difficult day. It might be as simple as declaring out loud that you miss the individual. 
  4. Don't force yourself to talk a lot if you're not a talker. You will be able to express your sadness in various ways. 
  5. Begin to open up. “I feel…” or “I need…” are good places to start.
  6. If you're having trouble, talk to a therapist. It's okay not to be okay. And it's quite natural to want professional assistance, in which case, you should seek out the services of a counsellor.

Why should we talk about death and grief?

Death is a matter of fact in all of our lives. There is no escaping it and no point avoiding talking about it. Being open about death and how it affects us is important in various emotional and practical ways.

Losing someone you care about will always be hard. There is no way to truly prepare for such an event, but talking about these things can help to decrease the burden.

Isolation during periods of grief is sadly common, but it shouldn’t be. We shouldn’t and don’t have to go through the grieving process alone, and talking is an important part of this process. How can we truly accept a loss if we never talk about it? 

But, that is not all. Talking about death also helps us prepare ourselves and our loved ones for our passing. If we can discuss passing away ahead of time, we can organise details like financial matters and plan funerals without the added pressure of grief. 

Finding the right words

It doesn't matter if you are the bereaved person or you are trying to reach out to someone who is struggling with their own grief, finding the right words is always hard.

Many of us stop trying to have these conversations because we don’t know what to say. It’s easy to become so wrapped up in worry about saying the wrong thing that you instead say nothing at all.

But staying silent isn’t the answer. It won’t help you come to terms with the deaths and feelings of grief in your own life, and it won’t help you support the people in your life who need it.

At the end of the day, there are no perfect words. There’s no one thing that you can say to make someone’s heavy heart lighten. It’s better to try than to leave the sadness alone to fester. Of course, that’s not to say that there are no bad ways to approach the topic.

It may help if you take a moment to yourself or with someone you trust and think about how to broach the subject. If you are talking about your grief, you may want to consider choosing a moment when the other person is fully focused. Difficult conversations can be even harder if many distractions detract from the moment.

Likewise, if you want to open up a dialogue with someone else dealing with grief, it is best to do so in a safe and private environment. Remember to acknowledge their loss. Speaking directly, for instance using terms such as death rather than passing, can help let someone know that you are willing to talk openly. 

Ultimately, every situation is different. You should approach conversations with death with sensitivity and always consider the person with who you are talking. Some people prefer to deal with tough matters directly, while for others, it feels more comfortable to build up to those tricky discussions. 

All information provided is general. For additional information relating to advance care planning, please speak to your health professional for advice about your specific circumstances. You can call the NHS on 111 for immediate help or 999 for emergency assistance if you or someone you know is at immediate risk of harm. For grief support, Bare provides free grief support resources

Bare helps you say goodbye on your terms. For more information, call 0808 258 3583 or visit the Bare Cremation website.