What is it that makes young people feel too uncomfortable to talk about grief, and how can we better support them?
It can be hard to find the words to talk about grief. Following a bereavement, we can experience a series of emotions that come and go over weeks, months, and years, and which can be difficult to put into rational, simple words. Beyond that, each experience of grief is unique to the individual, which can, at times, feel isolating and lonely.
A survey conducted by UK grief support charity Let’s Talk About Loss, supported by Opinium, found that 77% of UK 18–35-year-olds have experienced the death of someone in their lives, and yet 39% of those feel uncomfortable talking about grief with others.
So where does this hesitancy come from? In December, research from Project Eilnee, a charity seeking to help young people tackle the topic of death, found that more than a third of UK parents had never spoken to their children about death, bereavement or grief, with 21% revealing that they would not feel comfortable doing so. Additionally, a survey from charity Independent Age found that just 4% of people aged 65 and over sought extra support for bereavement – painting a concerning picture of a lifetime of hesitancy when it comes to speaking about grief.
How to support someone who is grieving
- Try not to talk about how you felt in a similar situation
- Don’t try and change how someone is feeling
- Find practical ways to help them
- Don’t be afraid to mention the name of the person who died
- Don’t just be there for the early days
Beth French founded Let’s Talk About Loss after she lost her mum in 2015, when Beth was 20 years old. The charity offers peer-led support, something its research found could be the answer to encouraging young people to talk more about what they’re going through – of the 18–35 year olds who reported experiencing loss in the survey, 43% of young grievers felt that talking to people who had had similar experiences would ease the process of talking about loss.
Emma from Exeter, who attends one of Let’s Talk About Loss’ meetup groups, said that attending "really made me realise that although grief is so unique, young grievers have so much in common."
Additionally, Liam from Hertfordshire said, "Being a man and going through the process of grief has its own set of challenges. It adds an extra layer of judgement when it comes to opening up, and that’s something I’ve had a hard time with since day one."
"The need for targeted support for young grievers has never been more apparent," says Beth French. “There are fantastic charities offering grief support for children and adults, but it is clear that the 18–35 age range needs specific peer support, where young grievers can chat to others who have had a similar experience.
"I firmly believe that our relaxed, safe spaces sit perfectly alongside other forms of grief support such as speaking to a trained bereavement counsellor, chatting with family and friends about the person you’ve lost and speaking to your GP or a helpline when things feel tough. With our creative services providing alternative outlets for processing loss, we are proud of the work we do at Let’s Talk About Loss to ensure that no young griever grieves alone."
For more information about Let’s Talk About Loss, visit letstalkaboutloss.org.
If you need support with grief, connect with a counsellor using counselling-directory.org.uk.