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Mental Health Awareness Week – Bekka’s Story – Grief and Bereavement

Written by on 9th May 2021

Bekka Prideaux presents the Monday morning Buzzing Music Mix and Business Talk on Tuesday Nights at 6pm.  Here she shares her journey of grief in losing both her parents and how the Covid crisis changed her experience.

Two years and a day after I lost my father to cancer, my mother was taken into hospital.  Maybe she should have gone sooner but she was determined to visit Dad on his Anniversary and Covid was rife.  The doctors assured her that going early wouldn’t have changed her diagnosis, cancer, terminal cancer.  The treatment she received was exceptional and seemed to be going well, until she was rushed into hospital on Christmas Morning.  Just over two week’s later we said our final goodbyes.

Grieving and dealing with the loss of a parent is never easy, I learned that when we lost Dad and I’m grateful for the lessons I learned about how to cope, because doing the same again, but in the middle of a pandemic is hard.

One of the things that surprised me when we said goodbye to Dad was just how much it impacted me day to day and for how long.  I didn’t see my parents that often so I thought I would be over it quickly.  But I wasn’t, emotionally I still felt very fragile for well over a year and had many days where I felt overwhelmed by life in general.  I think my friends expected it to be quicker too, and much of the time I felt very alone and certainly didn’t feel there was anyone I could talk to about not feeling OK.  I turned to my journal a lot and just wrote about all the dark thoughts I had and all the memories, good and bad.

I think of my mental health a bit like my overall health – it needs looking after on an ongoing basis to stay healthy.  Thanks to a chance conversation with an ex work colleague, I was introduced to something called the Wraw Index which looks at workplace resilience.  The framework that sits behind the Index gave me a way to break into where I needed to make some changes and start to feel more in control of my mental wellness.

Last year my friend ran an online workshop using the Wraw Index and again I learned what specific actions I could take to help me.  The big lesson for me was that it is OK to ask for help.  And through the process this time I have been surrounded by people who have been there and wanted to help and importantly I’ve not been stubborn and pushed them away.

Almost four months in I’m getting there, with the help of my friends.  I think the pandemic has changed people’s understanding of what it is to lose someone and has shown us the importance of being compassionate when someone is grieving.

So what was it that people did that helped me so much?

  • Listened and were there just to have coffee (online obviously).  I appreciated them dropping what they were doing and either hopping on a call, or messaging about Mum or just life in general.  Lots of people had said they were when Dad died but were too busy when it came to it – this time people showed with their actions that they were and that made it so much easier to ask for their help and to chat when I needed it.
  • Were still available and checking in on me after the funeral, four months in I still have off days and they are still there – Thank you
  • Offer to do something practical to help – not  just saying let me know if there is anything I can do, when the world and the grief feels overwhelming picking something you need help with is too much.  However, something specific like being asked if there is something you need from the shops, or the one that made a huge difference to me, offering to look after my dog when I had to go to the funeral, make it easy to ask for and take the help you need.

If you take one thing from this, I hope it is that how you support your friends when they are grieving makes a huge contribution to their mental wellbeing, probably much bigger than you will ever know.  Acknowledge what has happened, listen and offer to help in a specific ways.  I know it can be hard to know what to say when someone has lost someone close, and sometimes avoiding them is the easy option that we take.  Please don’t, they are probably feeling lonely anyway and need your friendship more than ever.

PS: I was so impressed with the WRAW Index, workshops are now available through my company so if you want to know more about it and how it can help you and your team let me know.

Other presenters have shared their mental health stories: Read Guy’s Story  Read Kelly’s Story

You can find out more about all the gang at Leighton Buzz Radio here

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