My grandmother Nell, who was born into working class London in 1895, was never quite sure how many brothers and sisters she had.
Several died before they reached the age of five which was, of course, very common in those times. These days, it’s said that we don’t understand death and loss as well as the Victorians. They were very used to friends and family dying before their time and sophisticated mourning rituals were part of their recognition that it takes time to accept the loss of a loved one. Of course, it’s a good thing that such loss is not an everyday occurrence for us but perhaps it also means that we are not as well-equipped to face the often-seismic changes to our lives that a close bereavement often makes.
At Sussex Community Foundation, we’ve funded many bereavement counselling services, including Cruse Bereavement Care - West Sussex, which has branches in Worthing, Chichester and Mid Sussex. The group has received over £30,000 in grants from us since 2009. Cruse exists to enable anyone suffering bereavement caused by death to understand their grief and cope with their loss. They offer face-to-face bereavement support in the bereaved person’s home, bereavement support via telephone and email helplines, opportunities for the bereaved to meet socially, and longer-term support for the more vulnerable.
One bereaved person had this to say: “My bereavement counsellor supported and helped me through a very difficult time. She encouraged me to remember those who had died and really grieve for them in a healthy, positive way. She understood how I was feeling and gave me permission to talk freely about my loved ones and to remember the many wonderful memories we had shared before their death. She listened with genuine interest and gave me the space to allow the tears to flow. She listened to my hurt, guilt and pain as she knew that, when someone is gone, we often feel that we did not do enough for them or we neglected to tell them how much we really cared for them and loved them.
"My counsellor understood how lost and forlorn I was feeling. Then, when I was ready, she gently brought me to a place of acceptance so that I could pick up my life once more and live on again, without the guilt, the fear and the sadness that had, for so long, enveloped and engulfed me.”
Perhaps there is one thing we are better at than the Victorians: the understanding that we often need support and to talk, when the pain of losing someone we love is too much to bear.
If you are finding it hard to cope after the death of someone close, you can contact Cruse Bereavement Care – West Sussex for information, advice and support. Call 0300 311 9959 and leave your details and a volunteer will aim to call you back within 48 hours.
For more information about Sussex Community Foundation, visit www.sussexgiving.org.uk